Francis was born in the Inverell district to Francis and Jennette Kennewell who lived at Howell NSW. He enlisted at Kensington NSW in August 1914 stating he was a twenty-four year old Grocer and that his address was Howell via Inverell. He joined the 3rd Battalion, D Company and sailed from Australia for Egypt on HMAT A14 Euripides in October 1914.
He served at Gallipoli where he received a gunshot wound to his head and was sent to Malta for treatment in September 1915. Fifteen months later he was unwell and invalided to England where he was admitted to 2nd Southern General Hospital at Bristol. In August 1917 he returned to Australia and was medically discharged in January 1918.