People on board
COLEMAN, Francis Thomas
Francis Thomas Coleman was born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1890 to James and Catherine Coleman. Francis, or Frank, was the youngest of four brothers and one sister. In 1913 Catherine was a widow and was living with her four sons in 251 Palmer St. Darlinghurst, an eastern suburb of Sydney. Frank was employed as a Clerk, his eldest brother, William, was a Fireman and James and Patrick were Labourers, while his sister, Mary, had married.
William was the first of the brothers to enlist for war, doing so in April 1915. He died of wounds in August 1916 and was buried in Étaples, France. Frank enlisted in March 1916 and was attached to the 3rd Mobile Veterinary Section. He was promoted Sergeant in August 1917 having transferred to the Divisional Headquarters on the Veterinary Staff, serving in Egypt, England and France. James enlisted in March 1917 and was also killed in action in July 1918, and was buried in France.
Frank was on leave in Ireland in October 1918 and, with his friend Boxer Ware, spent some time in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. They took the train in Westland Row on the morning of 10 October to take the boat to England, accompanied by two other Australian soldiers. Afterwards he reported that RMS Leinster left Kingstown punctually at 9 a.m. and was very crowded. Lifejackets were available, but it was left to passengers’ discretion to put them on, which the majority did. He said there was little panic after the first torpedo struck, but after the second torpedo it “was every man for himself”. He clung to a raft, being washed off several times, until he was rescued by HMS Lively. He was taken to the King George V Military Hospital and then to the North Dublin Rest Hospital where he was given medical treatment. Initially he was recorded as ‘Missing, Believed Drowned’ and it was more than a week before this was changed. It is not clear what news, if any, his family had received.
Having been ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ Frank Coleman left Europe in June 1919 and received an honourable discharge in July. In 1921 he married Elizabeth Aldiss in Sydney, but this marriage ended in divorce in 1930. For a few years he lived with his bachelor brother Patrick in the family home in Palmer Street, before marrying again in 1934. He moved with his new bride, Elsie Thornett, to Mosman, another Sydney suburb, and they had one child, Mary Thornett. They lived in the same house in Mosman until his death in 1977 and hers in 1980.