Francis Chisholm Young, known as ‘Frank’, was the son of mathematicians William Henry Young (1864-1942) and Grace Chisholm Young (1869-1944). William Young was Associate Professor (1912) and Honorary Chair in Philosophy and History of Mathematics (1913-19) at the University of Liverpool. During the First World War, Frank was 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps.
Family and official letters in the University Archive tell Frank’s story. A letter dated 28 October 1916 from the Royal Flying Corps to his parents, regarding Frank’s training and preparation, notes his great mathematical abilities and that he is ‘anxious to become a ‘mere pilot’’. On 4 August 1916, a friend wrote to his mother, Grace, of a meeting with Frank in Oxford, whilst he was on leave from his training. She notes: ‘He met me at the station in his uniform. He looked very well in it. […] He seemed very well, happy and absorbed in his work […] he attends lectures and drills and studies machines. He said the work would be of much value to him afterwards. He will be there only a month and then goes elsewhere to learn to fly.’ She continues: ‘It is curious how quickly the military manner comes, to watch Frank taking the salute of the many Tommies we met as we walked. […] I had the feeling that whatever hard times may come Frank is enjoying his first month of service.’ She ends: ‘Our boy is off now on his country’s service and our share in him must be but small.’
Frank was killed on active service on 14 February 1917, aged 20.
In a letter dated 5 March 1917, a colleague and friend of Frank’s writes with unaffected enthusiasm of Frank and the wonderful work he was doing as an artillery observer: ‘They say the batteries were ‘all mad about his work’ and did better shooting with him than with anybody. His Squadron Commander, Leman, told me that he considered that he would have made one of the finest pilots in France if he had lived.’
‘The day before he died he had four fights in the air and described it as the finest day he had ever had. On the last day he and his observer must have been in some way surprised. They were flying at about 5,000 feet and nine German planes dropped down from about 12,000 feet and suddenly fired into them. Of course they had not a chance.’
A manuscript letter of condolence from James Arthur, Councillor of Penang, to Professor Young regarding his son’s courage fighting in the war reads: ‘I remember your […] deep affection for him and of the great promise which he had shown in his school career […] the fact of such a glorious death is not without its consolations.’
This profile was submitted by Jo Klett, Archivist, University of Liverpool, and is based on material from the University Archive, collection reference D599 and D140.