Francis was born in Towersey, Bucks on the 8thOctober 1892 to parents Harry and Letitia Elizabeth Fielding (née Goodwin). Harry was an auctioneer and in 1911 the family were living at Essex House, Chinnor Road, Thame. They later moved to Stoneleigh in King’s Road, Thame.
Francis attended LWGS from 1902 to July 1906 and, by 1911, he had moved to Coventry and begun work in the fledgling motor industry as a draughtsman. He had volunteered for the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars (formerly the Oxfordshire Yeomanry) during 1909/1910 (Service number 1522), and after mobilisation at the outbreak of WW1, he would have travelled to France with the regiment in September 1914, the first Territorial Unit so to do. The Regiment saw action in the doomed attempts to save Dunkirk and Antwerp from the German advance, and then fell into the routine of trench warfare, holding the line at Messines. At some time during this early stage of the war, and by now a corporal, he was wounded by an exploding shell when carrying despatches and was invalided back to the UK. Gazetted with the rank of 2ndLieutenant in April 1915, he returned to the Western Front with the 9thBattalion (Queen Victoria Rifles) of the London Regiment. On 1stJuly 1916 the battalion was one of the lead units in the attack at Gommecourt, a diversionary attack as part of the main Somme offensive. Unfortunately, the Germans had too much warning and the battalion suffered heavy losses, including the death of Francis aged 23. His grave is at the Gommecourt, British Cemetery No 2, Hebuterne, Pas de Calais, France.
Extract from Thame Gazette
It is with much regret that we have to record the death of Second Lieutenant Francis Willoughby Fielding, which occurred in action on Saturday July 1st. Lieut Fielding was the younger son of Mrs Harry Fielding and the late Mr Harry Fielding (who as for many years connected with the firm of Messrs Bond and Burrows , auctioneers of Thame). Mrs Fielding received news of her son’s death by telegram on Thursday, and later received a confirmatory letter from Major Connolly of the Territorial Force Record Office, London. Lieut Fielding, on the outbreak of hostilities joined the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, with which regiment he went to France, from whence he was invalided home and on recovering he obtained a commission in the 9th London Regiment. The deceased officer was only 23 years of age, and was very popular with his fellow officers and men, and his death is greatly regretted by them all. The sympathies of our readers will be with Mrs Fielding in her great loss.