Last six days of a junior officer’s life: Kenneth Frost

I first noted Kenneth Frost’s name when I was researching the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment. He arrived to join the battalion on 17 November 1914 when it was at a low ebb and being rebuilt at Merville after virtual destruction in the First Battle of Ypres. The battalion’s war diary never mentions him again and I never really followed up to see what happened to him.

And then, years later, I came across this when carrying out a study of a different regiment:

It is most unusual to find an officer’s photograph contained with his service record. Note that Kenneth is shown wearing his South Staffords cap badge.

Kenneth’s story

Kenneth Frost’s service record revealed his story, some of which was filled in by correspondence between his father and the War Office.

  • On 22 June 1909 he enlisted as Private 709 of the 28th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). At the time, Kenneth was aged 18, was employed as a clerk and lived with his widowed father at 11 Mayford Road, Wandsworth Common in South London.
  • He was embodied for full-time service on 5 August 1914 and signed the Imperial Service Obligation at the Tower of London on 10 November 1914.
  • Recently promoted to Corporal, he went to France with the battalion on 26 October 1914. It proceeded to Bailleul where it was then established as an as an Officers Training Corps.
  • Kenneth was appointed Temporary Second Lieutenant (on probation) and posted to the 1st South Staffords, joining it on 17 November.
  • His father said that Kenneth served with the South Staffords for approximately six weeks and then went for four or five weeks for machine gun practice at the School of Instruction for Officers at Saint-Omer.
  • He was finally commissioned as a Temporary Second Lieutenant on 27 January 1915, although the eventual public announcement in the “London Gazette” did not come until 19 February 1915.
  • Kenneth was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). Its diary reports his arrival on 16 February 1915. The battalion was in billets in Bailleul.
  • He was killed in action on 22 February 1915.
The “London Gazette” announced Kenneth’s commission only a few days before his death.

Six days

17 February 1915:

Bailleul: the battalion is under orders to move to the trenches near Zillebeke. (War diary)

18 February 1915:

The battalion remained at Bailleul.

19 February 1915:

The battalion, with the rest of its brigade, marches to huts at Vlamertinghe. An advance party of one officer per company, not incuding Kenneth, went to the trenches. They found them in a very bad state.

20 February 1915:

The advance party returned and the whole battalion moved off towards Zillebeke.
The battalion put all four of its companies into the front line. A supply wagon borke down and the men had to live off their emergency rations for a while.
The battalion found it to be a “lively” line to hold and that much work needed to be done to make the trenches defensible.
The battalion’s “details” (scouts, pioneers and cyclists) brought up sandbags and other materials.

21 February 1915:

“A fairly quiet day” in which enemy shellfire killed four men and wounded three others.

The dead were Sgt L/6335 Frederick William Davies and Pte S/8810 William Charles Chamberlain, neither of whom have a known grave, and Pte 7430 Herbert Manning and L/Cpl 967 Alfred Steane, both of whom are known to be buried in Tuileries British Cemetery in Zillebeke.

22 February 1915:

The battalion’s line came under enemy artillery and rifle fire. In particular, “B” Company had come under fire from a trench mortar and had to evacuate its trench.
Kenneth Frost, serving with “A” Company, was killed by this fire: “his body could not be found”. A dreadful, but mercifully quick, end to a short and promising life.

Kenneth Frost has no known grave today and his memory is commemorated by his name being inscribed on the Royal West Kent Regiment panel at the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).

In all, records show that 22 officers and men of the battalion lost their lives this day. Of these, 8 including Lieut. John Edward Guy Brown, are known to be buried at Tuileries British Cemetery; 1 man lies in Bedford House Cemetery (possibly having been evacuated and died of wounds); and finally 1 man lies a distance away in Poelcapelle British Cemetery, his remains having been identified from his ID disc during battlefield clearance in 1923.


The relative locations of Ypres and Zillebeke. My highlights show the original Menin Gate and the Tuileries (tile works).
Part of a map contained with the war diary of HQ if V Corps (National Archives WO95/743). It shows the area south of Zillebeke that had been held by 28th Division before Kenneth Frost and the 1st Royal West Kents was sent into the line in that area.
A sketch map contained with the battalion’s war diary. Note that it highlights the spot where “B” Company came under heavy fire and that it is not orientated in the usual north-south way but actually upside down. The railway cutting which can be seen top right is a useful landmark.
The same sketch flipped into the normal “north at top” orientation. The loop in the front line where “B” Company can be clearly seen. Toi ts left (that is, west) and before the railway cutting is the sector, soon to become notorious, often called “Hill 60”.
Sketch map from war diary of 83rd Infantry Brigade (WO95/2273), which was relieved by the battalion and other units of 13th Infantry Brigade. I have highlighted the loop.
The area today (Google Maps) on the Zillebeke to Zwarteleen road (called Wervikstraat), looking SE towards the latter. The right-hand turn to “Hill 60” and the railway cutting is just on the camera’s right front.
The dreadful news arrives at home on 25 February 1915. “Deeply regret to inform you that 2/Lieut. K. Frost 1st Royal West Kent Regt was killed in action on 22 February. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy”. (From Kenneth’s service record)
Kenneth Frost is remembered at the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).
Kenneth’s family provided an entry in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour.

Further family tragedy

Kenneth’s elder brother Captain Alan Frost, also of the Artists’ Rifles but aattached to 259th Company of the Machine Gun Corps, was killed in action in East Africa on 17 October 1917. He now lies in Dar-es-Salaam War Cemetery. Alan had originally been buried in Mtama Cemetery in Tanganyika and was brought into Dar-es-Salaam in 1968.

Kenneth and Alan’s father Ralph Frost was Managing Director of J. Miles & Co, a printing company located on Wardour Street in SoHo in London. (From Kenneth’s service record). Ralph later lived at 13 Wandle Road, Wandsworth Common.
The family home at 11 Mayford Road today (Google Maps).
The family at the same address in the 1911 census. Ir reveals a younger brother, Max (Gilbert) Frost who was just three years of age at the time – still a schoolboy when he lost his brothers. Max lived until 1972.

Kenneth and Alan are both commemorated at the war memorial at St Mary Magdalene Church, 210 Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW17 7HP.


  • Service record of Kenneth Frost: National Archives WO339/23373
  • War diary 1st South Staffordshire Regiment: National Archives WO95/1664
  • War diary 1st Royal West Kent Regiment WO95/1553
  • “London Gazette” (
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission (


Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)

South Staffordshire Regiment

Gazetteer of the Western Front: Bailleul