Norwich – Earlham Cemetery (Frank Samuel Tann)

This is the grave of Frank Samuel Tann, located in the older military burials area of Earlham Cemetery. These graves offer some very different sorts of military stories to those who died in the First World War, and there was no conscription in the nineteenth century so everyone in the army is there by some form of choice.

Frank was born in 1875, the son of Ransome Bransby Tann and Hannah Tann (nee Sayer), who had married at St. Peter Hungate Church in Norwich on 6 April 1874. The couple lived at Philadelphia Lane in Norwich, a street which is still there, but the Victorian housing has all long since gone.

For reasons that I don’t understand, Frank was living with his grandparents (on his mother’s side) at the 1881 census, Henry Sayer and Hannah Sayer. Henry worked as a shoemaker and the family lived at Gildengate Street in Norwich. He was still living with them at the time of the 1891 census, although they had by now moved to Middle Street and Frank was also working as a shoemaker, like his grandfather.

At the age of 19 years (and 9 months), the excitement of working as a shoemaker (specifically he was working as a clicker in the shoe trade) in Norwich had perhaps worn off. He had been serving in the Norfolk Artillery Militia and decided that he would sign up for the army, agreeing to serve for at least 12 years. He attested for military service on 29 August 1894 (and he was given the service number 4058) and his medical revealed that he was 5’7″ in height, weighed 9.5 stone, had brown hair and was a member of the Church of England.

Frank’s war records remain, so it’s possible to say where he was stationed, although not unfortunately the exact area of any particular country. He was at his home base with the 1st Norfolk Regiment, which was at the Britannia Barracks in Norwich which had been constructed between 1885 and 1887, from 29 August 1894 until 9 November 1894. He then went to India from 10 November 1897 until 25 February 1904, before returning home between 26 February 1904 and 14 January 1905. His final overseas posting was in South Africa from 15 January 1905 until 16 February 1907, then coming back to the Britannia Barracks. I do wonder what these soldiers thought about these places they were sent, it must have felt very exotic.

His military records also give details of his promotions, he started as a private in the army, then was promoted to a lance corporal on 27 April 1896, although returned to being a private on 10 November 1896. He was made a lance corporal again on 11 September 1897, then a corporal on 18 September 1899, a lance sergeant on 1 December 1901 and then a sergeant on 6 July 1903. He served in the army for a total of 15 years and 134 days, as he died in Norwich on 9 January 1910 at the age of just 35, the cause of death being given as a malignant tumour.

On 14 September 1908, Frank had married Ellen Ethel in Brentwood and they lived at 2 King Street in Norwich. The witnesses at their wedding were Frederick Marshall and Alfred Hyatt, with Ellen Ethel later working as a nurse and she lived until 1956.

Frank was buried at the military section of cemetery and the authorities must have thought that they would have enough space for many more decades, unaware of what was ahead just a few years later with the First World War. His gravestone is a good quality one, although some of the lettering is coming off, something which the CWGC repair for the graves in their care. A life sadly cut short far too early and I do wonder what Frank thought about his over seven years in India.