Francis Omar Tilley

Name Francis Omar Tilley
Corps 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment. Formerly 2nd Battalion
Rank Acting Sergeant
Service No. 9425
Date/Place of entry Market Harborough
Date of death 14 December 1917  Died of Wounds
Memorial/Grave 111F.16 Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension






Francis Omar Tilley was born in spring 1894, the second youngest of nine surviving children of John James Tilley and his wife Clara nee White. John James described himself as a farm labourer in 1871, farmer in 1901, and owner of a steam powered threshing machine in 1911.

In that census year, the seventeen year old Francis was employed as a blast furnaceman and living with his parents and younger sister Clara. The family had a lodger, Edward Harrison, who was to marry the sister of William James Tansley, a serving soldier in the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment then based in Madras. Francis’ older brother Sidney Tilley was also a soldier in this Battalion, as were Edwin Towndrow and Thomas Crane. The family’s next door neighbour was Jesse Ingram whose household included Roland Ingram.

Francis probably joined the regiment before the war, as the 1st and 2nd Battalions were regular army. He went to France on 12 October 1914 from India and fought at Neuve Chapelle the following March. As Lance Corporal, he was wounded shortly afterwards during the Battle of Festubert, in essence a second phase of the failed attack on Aubers Ridge which lasted from 15 - 25 May. He must have transferred into the 1st Battalion some time before November when the 2nd Battalion moved to Mesopotamia. The 1st Battalion was part of the 6th Division which in 1915 was engaged in the actions at Hooge in Flanders, in 1916 the Battles of the Somme, and in 1917 the operations around Cambrai.

Francis Omar’s relative David Tilley has researched his military career and written an account available at It describes how Francis went on to win the Military Medal when the Leicestershire and Sussex battalions captured German trenches at Ribecourt during the Cambrai offensive in November of 1917. This medal, established in March 1916, was awarded to soldiers below commissioned rank for bravery in battle on land. It was the equivalent of the Military Cross awarded to officers.

Francis was mortally wounded when the German forces counter attacked in December. He died on 14 December in Abbeville field hospital and is buried in the British Commonwealth war graves at the town’s Communal Cemetery Extension*. Francis was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ in the London Gazette on 13 March 1918.

The Leicestershire Regiment’s website has a photograph of Francis. He was survived by his father John, who died in 1938 and his mother Clara who died in 1935.

(*Wrongly entered on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission index as France Omar Tilley; the grave registration also identifies his father as France Omar Tilley)