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Francis Percy Toplis
Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Francis Percy Toplis
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
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
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. “
Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Toplis
Photos source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Toplis