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Photo of Francis Percy Toplis

Francis Percy Toplis

Date of Birth: August 22, 1896 Date of Death: May 6, 1920


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Francis Percy Toplis


Gender: Male

Date and Place of Birth: 22nd August 1896, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Date and Place of Death: 6th June 1920, Plumpton near Penrith – shot by police on suspicion of murder

Nationality: British


Childhood: One of the 5 surviving of 7 children born.


Parents: Herbert and Rejoice Elizabeth nee Walker


Parent’s occupations: Coal miner hewer


Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: N/K


Occupation:  Blacksmith /soldier


Place of residence at Gretna: N/K


Job title at Gretna: N/K


Marital status: Unmarried


Children: N/K

Travels: N/K


Awards/recognitions: N/K


Trivia / any other information:

Francis Percy Toplis was born on 22nd August 1896 at Chesterfield, Derbyshire to Herbert and Rejoice Elizabeth nee Walker. He was the eldest child.


1901- living at Skegby Lane, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Listed as grandson to Alice Webster, widow, head of household but evidence shows that Alice was his aunt.


1911- living at Hill Street, Westhouse, Nottinghamshire. Working as a pony driver underground in coal miner. Father a coal miner hewer. 8 children have been born, 5 have survived.


Prewar – allegedly imprisoned for attempted rape.  (Wikipedia)


1915 served as a private with the Royal Army Medical Corps. in the Balkans but posed as an officer whilst on leave wearing a monocle.


Transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps after he was wounded in 1915.


1917 – allegedly involved and possibly one of the leaders of the Etaples Mutiny in France. Known as the ‘Monocled Mutineer”


1917 – employed briefly at Gretna. Charged with fraud and theft at Annan.


26th December 1919 – deserted


6th June 1920 – was shot by police at Plumpton, near Penrith following a nationwide manhunt. The note on his service medal card reports

“shot by police in the execution of their duty- a warrant for murder having been issued against him”


A full story can be found at


The inquest verdict is included.  Described as a journeyman Blacksmith


Penrith Observer Tuesday 8th June 1920 gives a full account of the manhunt and subsequent shooting of Toplis.


“TOPLIS AT CARLISLE. In the police description of Toplis a long list of convictions for fraud and theft was given, the last case being at Annan, in 1917, when Toplis was believed to have been working at Gretna munitions factory. “




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