Service number: 37392 | Rank: Private | Regiment: 4 Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
Killed in action, July 31, 1917, in Flanders.
Buried at YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Aged 31.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT ERNEST …
Ernest was born in Shipdham in Norfolk and in 1909 he married Zoraida Eastick. By the time of the 1911 Census they were living in George Street, Brandon, with their baby son, Alec. Ernest was a butcher by trade, working for Messrs. Wood in 1911, and at that time the family had a young butcher boarding with them.
In May 1916 Ernest went into the army and by this time he and Zoraida were living in Church Road, Brandon, with their three sons. Conscription was now being enforced due to lacking numbers of volunteers and so it is possible that Ernest was one of those less willing to join up, seemingly not having volunteered for ‘Kitchener’s Army’ in 1914. In December 1916 he is recorded as being in France and the following year, on 31st July 1917 he was involved in the opening of the ‘Third Battle of Ypres’. The Royal Fusiliers war diary states that an hour before they were to set off it began to rain very heavily. By the time the signal was given to start the attack, just before 4am, the ground had become very muddy and shell holes had filled with water. The men moved forward behind a creeping artillery barrage and suffered a few casualties as they crossed over a small valley. It had gone reasonably well for the men and they reached the German trenches but then the Germans held their ground and fought back. Machine gun posts, rifle fire and sniping caused many casualties to the Fusiliers and they lost many men, including many officers. By nightfall the Fusiliers were holding the ground they had captured, but it had come at a huge cost. By the time they were relieved at 11pm they had suffered 289 casualties and it had begun raining again.
Ernest did not return to his unit following this action and was officially listed as “missing” by the War Office. A year passed before the War Office changed this status and in July 1918 they officially notified his widow that he was presumed dead. Ernest was 31 years old. After the war, in 1921 Zoraida re-married and moved away from Brandon to Watton with her new husband, Thomas Garner.
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/929414/brown,-ernest-james/), Ernest was “Mentioned in Despatches”, meaning he had done something brave or honourable. I shall continue my research for this.