Francis Noel Dykes Preston was born in Lancashire in late 1888. Educated at Seascale Boys Preparatory School in Cumbria, Francis followed in his father Charles’ footsteps and became a solicitor. In 1911, Francis was living alone at 2 Mecklenburgh Street, London. He was working as a solicitor’s articled clerk, training to become a solicitor.
Francis moved to Doncaster and began work as the Deputy Town Clerk for the Corporation, the predecessor of Doncaster Council, and lived at 8 St Vincent Avenue, Doncaster. Francis attested to join the army on the 20th of November 1915. At this time, his next of kin was his mother, Mrs Caroline Sybil Preston, residing at 51 Eastmount, Barrow-in-Furness.
However, Francis found himself in a strange circumstance. The Town Clerk, Raymond Augustus Hall Tovey, had been suffering from various health problems. During his long absences, Francis was required to take on large parts of his work. As a result, Mayor Samuel Balmforth put a claim in soon after conscription was introduced in 1916 to prevent Francis from being called up. Francis’ work included administering the claims of those seeking exemption from conscription and the following tribunals. Although he wished to enlist fully and serve in the military, he was considered as too important to the corporation to be released.
In April 1916, Francis found himself on the other side of the tribunal committee. The Recruiting Tribunal, which heard appeals against the decisions of local tribunals, brought his case to be heard at the Mansion House. The Doncaster Chronicle reported on the tribunal hearing, describing it as a ‘peculiar position’ and stating Francis had been ‘CLAIMED BY THE CORPORATION.’ Raymond Tovey had recently returned to work after his illness, but was unable to take on his full duties. Mr Preston, in the eyes of the corporation, was ‘indispensable.’ The decision was made that Francis would receive another two month’s exemption to await the improvement of the Town Clerk’s health. At the end of his hearing, Francis spoke to the Chairman, William Wright Warde-Aldam of Hooton Pagnell Hall and stated ‘I will do my best, sir, wherever I am.’
Francis was finally granted permission to enlist, and his attestation was approved in April 1917. He became Private Francis Noel Dykes Preston, 10710, Honourable Artillery Company. However, his time in the army was plagued by poor health, including chronic bronchitis and nephritis, (a kidney inflammation.) Francis spent time convalescing in Lord Derby’s War Hospital, Warrington. In July 1918, Francis was transferred to the Reserve due to his medical problems and this allowed him to resume his duties at Town Clerk. He returned to Doncaster and to his home on St Vincent Avenue.
Later in his life, Francis worked as a solicitor for Inland Revenue and moved back to London. In late 1950, he married Alice Marion Agnes Gee in Surrey and the couple lived at 25 Dunmore Road, Wimbledon. Francis died 7 years later, in November 1957, aged 68.