John Hampden Grammar School

Frederick Clarence Lance


Frederick Lance was born on 28th November 1897 in Shoreditch, London. By 1901 his family had moved to 1, Nelson Villa, Hughenden Road in High Wycombe and they subsequently moved to Hendon. On Frederick's father's death in late 1911 the family returned to High Wycombe to live in 97, Desborough Avenue.
As well as studying at the School Frederick worked for Messrs William Birch, who were chairmakers in Denmark Street. Frederick was the youngest brother of Charles William Lance, who was Mayor in 1946, when Chepping Wycombe officially became High Wycombe, and received the Freedom of the Borough.

In September 1914 at the age of 17, he joined the 2nd/1st Bucks Battalion of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry in Aylesbury. The Battalion travelled to France in May 1916 and were involved in the Battle of Fromelles. Lance Sergeant Frederick Clarence Lance is believed to be one of the men to have fallen at the battle of Fromelles, aged just 18, on July 19, 1916. He was presumed missing until May 1917  

The Battle of Fromelles started on July 19th 1916 and lasted until the following day. The battle was an attempt to stop the Germans moving troops away from this sector to the Battle of the Somme that was being fought fifty miles to the south of Fromelles. Like in the Somme the battle was preceded by a large bombardment. However the Germans had abandoned their lines and had set up new positions about 200m further back where they had built concrete bunkers that housed machine guns. The expectation was that those in the German trenches would be killed or totally demoralised from the bombardment.
Lance1The end of a bombardment was followed by an infantry attack and the Germans were well aware of this. When the Allies attacked, they were hit by a German artillery bombardment that left many dead in their own trenches. The attacks were failures and very costly in terms of manpower. 5,533 Australians (about 90% of those involved) and 1,547 British troops (about 50% of those involved) were casualties. Many men lay wounded in ‘No Mans Land’. However, a plan for a temporary truce with the Germans to allow the wounded could be collected was vetoed by senior officers.
It is thought that the organisation behind the battle was poor as so much planning and energy was being invested in the Somme campaign. Fromelles was one of the worst disasters to befall the Australian Army in the whole of World War One and it did a great deal to sour relations between British and Australian senior army commanders.
In 2008 a mass grave of about 400 Allied soldiers was discovered at Pheasant Wood near to Fromelles. It is believed that the Germans quickly put as many bodies as they could into a mass grave to prevent the spread of disease. The bodies will be reburied in individual graves near to Pheasant Wood, a process that will be supervised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Frederick is thought to be one of 19 men from south Buckinghamshire found in this mass grave. You can read more of the story on via the Bucks Free Press
As Frederick Lance's body has not yet been identified he is remembered on the Loos Memorial. His listing with the Commonwealth War Grave Commission can be found here.