Monday, 27 April 2015

Mark Strelley Fryar 1/5/1892-20/6/1931 and Caroline Isabella (Molly ) Fryar 9/1/1896-9/1/1985 Prisoner of War and VAD Nurse




For each story in this WWI series I have tried to have a different focus or story type. This is of a  sister Caroline Isabella Fryar who was a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment and her brother  Mark Strelley Fryar who became a WW1 prisoner of war in Germany.

Mark Strelley Fryar had trained in OTC at Malvern College. In May 1911 he joined the 1/5th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiments).  This territorial regiment was mobilised for war service on 5/8/14 when Mark was 23. The Division concentrated in the Luton area, with the 5th Sherwoods at Harpenden. By mid August after preparing for overseas service in Braintree they proceeded to France. They landed at Boulogne on 25th February and joined the British Expeditionary Force at Ypres. On the 12th of May the Division was retitled 46th (North Midland) Division. 

Mark Strelley Fryar
Less than 4 months after landing at Ypres he was wounded at Dickebuse.



In early August his parents, Mark and Louise, received a telegram to say that he was in a POW camp in Gutersloh, Germany. At first he had been reported missing on 1st July in the Newspaper  and then as a prisoner. Major Checkland when writing to his parents re the event stated "He went forward with the Lewis guns and was seen near a German parapet giving instructions to his men. It is believed at this time he was wounded".

Mark's story is recorded in "A Lack of Offensive Spirit? The 46th (North Midland) Division" by Alan MacDonald p392-4

Owing to smoke he and his Captain were separated from the rest of the Battalion. Captain Lewes was hit three times and while Fryar and his men took other action to secure their safety they needed to lay low until cover of darkness or reinforcements appeared. The Germans kept bombing them until 11am and sent an English speaking soldier to say he would take them prisoners. They were out of ammunition and by 12.30 they were being shelled by their own forces. He talked with the injured Lewes and they decided to give in asking the Germans to help them with their wounded. They would not and just looked on. They carried the semi- conscious Captain out but he died the next morning. Mark gave his account in an interview after his return from POW camp on 10th December 1918.



 " It is believed at this time he was wounded"
After attempting to escape in May he was recaptured and received 30 days solitary confinement for his efforts. From there he was sent to Fort Zorndorf in Austria for 7 months.

He was promoted to Captain on 17th June 1917.

On 19th March 1918 he escaped again while at the Schweidnitz Camp but was caught getting on a train. Eventually he was interned and repatriated through Holland in early October 1918 returning home to England on 2nd November 1918 and finally repatriated on 22th Nov1918. There is a comment in the footnotes of MacDonald's book that he was court-martialled for mutiny and for forging passports but I cannot find more at present on this. As his grave refers to him as the late Captain of the Sherwood Foresters possibly all was forgiven.


His sister Caroline Isabella Fryar (Molly) was with the Voluntary Aid Detachment. The role of the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses and assistants were to provide nursing and medical assistance during a time of war.  VADs worked in a variety of roles which included nursing assistants, ambulance drivers, chefs, and administration .

Whilst most VADs worked within Britain, some were posted overseas such as those with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France during the Great War.  During wartime the VAD organisation was administered by the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John.  The numbers of women serving as VADs were around 70 -100,000.

While Molly’s wartime records are unavailable, her medal roll references her as a part of the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) in the 1(a) theatre of War . This is indicative of serving in the Western Front- France and Flanders.  

She was most likely a War nurse and a relative referred to her as driving ambulances during the war. So it could be assumed she was in France performing some sort of medical role. Her dates were recorded as serving from 20/7/1917 to 22/10/1919.


Caroline Isabella (Molly)  Fryar

Molly returned to England nearly one year after her brother.  Since I heard about Molly through family connections I thought she sounded like a “gutsy” sort. More recently I heard she was a spy in the Second World War. Apparently she was parachuted into France to spy behind enemy lines being  part of the Special Operations Executive which was based in secret headquarters at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. (Source Greg Strelley)

Now I’d like to hear more about that!! Please contact me if you know more - kanahookarob@yahoo.com.au

The Strelley and Fryar families would be proud of Mark and Molly. Neither married or had children so recording their stories feels right.  Mark was killed aged 40 in a cycle accident 20th June 1931. Molly lived to a ripe old age dying on her birthday in 1985 at age 89.

Whilst visiting Derby last year my husband and I visited Mark and Molly's graves which are situated amongst the family plots for the Fryars and the Strelleys.
Mark and Molly's Grave in Derby

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