Francis Forman was born 27 February 1888, the eldest son of Tom Forman, a coke drawer born at Strubby in Lincolnshire, and Sarah Ann née Simpson, a native of Hett in County Durham. He had a sister, Mary Annie, a school teacher who trained at St Hild’s College in Durham, and a brother, Wilfrid George, who in 1911 was a wool washer in a worsted factory. The family lived in the vicinity of Hett until 1911, first in Hett itself in 1891, then at 71 Johnson Terrace in Sunderland Bridge in 1901, and then Cross Street in Croxdale in 1911. After the death of Sarah Ann Forman in 1892 first Tom Forman’s mother Mary and then his sister, also Mary, joined the family. After Francis Forman’s death his father lived at Seaham with his daughter Mary Annie.
Clearly a bright boy, Francis Forman won an Intermediate Scholarship from Durham County Council in 1903 to the North Eastern County School (from 1924 renamed Barnard Castle School), which he attended until 1906. There the first indications of his later career as a school master are found in his appointments as Assistant Librarian, Dormitory Monitor, Monitor, and to the Reading Room Committee.
From Barnard Castle School he went up to Durham University, as a member of Hatfield Hall, matriculating in Michaelmas 1906 to study Arts. He was awarded his BA in June 1908. This degree enabled him to take up an Assistant Master position at Bournemouth School on 26 April 1909, and where in 1914 he was master of the Remove Class. He took a full part in the school life, playing sport and from September 1914 serving with the school’s O.T.C., specialising in signals. He lived during this period first at the school at 7 Portchester Road in Bournemouth and then at 16 Fortescue Road.
Francis Forman left Bournemouth School at the end of the summer term of 1915 to take up a commission in the 3rd Battalion, Dorset Regiment. After a period of training at Wyke Regis, near Weymouth, he was attached to the 1/7th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in France which had been in France since 22 March 1915. He joined this unit in France on the very day the Battle of the Somme commenced. He was killed in action two weeks later on 14 July 1916 during a final push to capture the fortified village of Ovillers, a day one objective. This village was finally captured on 16 July, but would change hands twice more before the end of the war. The circumstances of Forman’s death were relayed by his sister Mary Annie to the headmaster of Bournemouth School as follows.
Frank lost his life leading his platoon in an attack over open ground on the morning of 14 July, in the face of very heavy fire from machine guns and rifles. It was his first time in action, having been in the trenches but a day and a night since joining the regiment on 1st July.
Letter from Mary Annie Forman, published in Bournemouthian magazine, 1916.
The headmaster of the school remembered Forman as,
not only a highly valued member of staff, but one who endeared himself by his courteous and obliging disposition to all – masters and boys alike – with whom he came in contact.
Bournemouthian, vol. 3, no. 35, p.51 (July 1916)
Francis Forman’s body was not found, and he is therefore commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. At Durham University his name is recorded on a plaque at Hatfield College. In the area where he grew up his name is found on a plaque, roll of honour, and religious painting at St Bartholomew’s Church. At Barnard Castle School chapel stained glass windows were dedicated in 1920, with panels and a roll of honour recording the names of the pupils and masters who fell in the conflict. Forman’s sacrifice is also commemorated on the Bournemouth School war memorial.