One of the oldest voluntary ambulance drivers working in Chelsea was Bristol-born Frank Reginald Enefer, who was aged 60 in 1939. Frank was a travelling salesman and lived with his wife Jessie and 14-year-old son Dudley at 437 Fulham Road (since demolished). Unfortunately I know nothing about his ambulance work, apart from the fact that he did some, but I did find out about his service in WW1. You will not be surprised to find his story was one of trauma and human frailty.
Frank enlisted at Reading in Dec 1915, when he was 36 and married to Gertrude Stallard with 3 children, the youngest of whom was under 2. This was 2 months before conscription started. Why did he choose to leave his family before he was compelled to? We don’t know.
He joined the Machine Gun Corps (Motors) w/ the rank of Gunner, was appreciated by his COs and judged to be sober, intelligent and reliable. By May 1917 he was an acting Corporal.
Then it all changed. On 12 Apr he sustained a gunshot wound to the knee and was sent home to the Princess Christian Military Hospital at Weymouth; 7 weeks later he was discharged and granted a week’s furlough – but failed to return.
A report in his file stated he went missing for over a month and named 38 pieces of uniform clothing and kit that disappeared with him. There are no clues as to why he went AWOL – perhaps the recent death of his mother was involved – nor why the Army forgave him, but forgive him they did because he was awarded the standard medals, although his rank reverted to Gunner. It seems it was a blip in an otherwise solid record.
At some point after this, his marriage ended and he and Gertrude divorced. Frank then married Jessie Ann Wilson, 17 years his junior, who was herself divorced.
Poor Frank did not live to see the end of his second world war – he died in 1943. As he does not appear as a civilian war casualty we can surmise ‘natural causes’ were to blame.
The photo of Frank is by kind permission of Lenore Mason.