The London Gazette of June 21, 1916, recorded that Bombardier Joseph Francey of Ballymena had been awarded the DCM.
Bombardier Joseph Francey of Ballymena was a dedicated servant to the demanding guns and in mid-1916, his commitment to their cause was recognised with the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal – sometimes known as the ‘other ranks’ VC’.
A pre-war regular with the Royal Field Artillery, by the time of his award he had three and a half years service under his belt.
The Ballymena Observer duly reported:- Information has been received in Ballymena to the effect that Bombardier Joseph Francey, Royal Field Artillery, son of Mr. William Francey, Queen Street, Ballymena, has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.He enlisted in Scotland.
Mr. Francey has two other sons with the colours, Pte. Alex Francey in the Highland Light Infantry, who was 16 months in the trenches and is now on home service and Gunner James Francey who was through the Dardanelles Campaign and is now in France.
Supplemement to the London Gazette, 21 June 1916: 69141 Bomr.J.Francey,71st By.,36th Bde.,R.F.A. “For consistent good work since the commencement of the campaign: On one occasion,though not a signaller, he mended wires under heavy fire, and restored communications at a critical moment. He has proved himself a most reliable and fearless N.C.O., and has set a fine example.” Reprinted in the Ballymena Observer, September 1, 1916
All ranks in the corps of artillery were left in doubt from the outset of their training about their status. The sacred gun and its welfare was to be the first and final concern of all its servants, and thousands paid a deadly toll because of this almost umbilical connection.
As the war intensified, large sections of the nation’s heavy industry were devoted to feeding the insatiable demands of the artillery. By war’s end, the rate of production was astonishing, both in terms of shells and in numbers of guns.
In fact, when thousands of artillery pieces were lost in the German offensives of 1918, they were replaced within days. It was a feat which Germany could not emulate and was one of the main factors in the eventual defeat of their armies.
But efficiency and availability of war material meant little or nothing to those who used the guns at the sharp end of war. The loss of a gun was regarded as a matter of shame and some men would go to extreme lengths to protect their deadly masters.