Ernest HEATH
Rank: Private
Number: 29223
Date of Death: 25 August 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Arneke British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Born in 1898, in Cheadle, Ernest was the fourth of the five children of John and Elizabeth Heath who were listed on the 1901 census. The couple had married at the local parish church of St Mary's in 1891 and had only lived at 60 Bennett Street, Higher Brinksway for a short while. Nothing else is known of the family, except that after the War, Mr Heath had moved a few doors down the road to No. 34.

Ernest's medal entitlement records at the National Archives do not mention when he went abroad on active service. In itself, this confirms that it was after the beginning of 1916 as he had no entitlement to earlier service medals. The 6th Battalion of the Borderers was a Pioneer unit - comprised of soldiers trained to fight but whose usual role was in the construction of defences and strongpoints. They were engaged in their normal duties when Ernest was badly wounded. He died at an army field hospital - 62nd Casualty Clearing Station - at Arneke. As such, it cannot be known exactly when he was injured.

However, there is a comprehensive report on the days preceeding his death attached to the Battalion's War Diary, at the National Archives, and is reproduced in its entirety:

"On the night of the 20/21st August the Battalion took part in a minor operation carried out on Dranoutre Ridge. "A" Company were under the orders of the Commanding Officer of the 2/14th London Regiment and were held responsible for siting a support trench immediately the objective had been reached. By 1.30am (21st) this Company together with three Companies of the London Scottish Regiment had arrived at the assembly positions on the S.E. side of the Locre - Bailleul road.

At 2.5 am our barrage opened and the troops moved forward, very little opposition was met and the enemy barrage did not come down until 2.15am. The objective was reached by 2.50am and a line of outposts established on the E. side of the Locre - Dranoutre road, the Company then commenced digging on a line running from M.29.c.7.9 to M.35.a.8.8. Work was continued until 5am when the Company withdrew to Benger Copse arriving there at 6.30 am. Only 4 casualties were sustained.

Two platoons of "C" Company under the command of 2/Lieut F Ravenscroft were allotted the task of wiring our front line running from M.23.d.9.1 to M.29.b.5.6. This they succeeded in erecting except for a distance of 100 yards. The remaining two platoons worked on Shell Alley. The casualties for this Company amounted to 2 wounded.

"D" Company were allotted the task of consolidating the support line by digging and wiring three strongpoints on the reverse slope of the ridge. By 1 am (21st) the Company had assembled in the neighbourhood of Chateau Road ready to move forward directly the objective had been taken, owing to the fog the pre-arranged light signals were not visible and definite information was not received until 4am. Immediately on receipt of this news the Company moved forward and commenced work but at daybreak they withdrew (5.30am).

"A" Company rested during the day and moved off again at 8.45 pm and on arriving at the "sunken road" M.28.a the enemy suddenly opened a very heavy barrage, including a number of gas shells, to cover a counter-attack on the ground captured the previous morning, this lasted until 11.50 pm. The Company then proceeded to the trench which they had already established the previous night and commenced to dig the traverses which they completed. At 4am the Company left off work and returned to camp. Casualties sustained were 2 O.R.s wounded.

The two platoons of "C" Company set out to complete the wiring which had to be left the previous night. Owing to the enemy opening out and a counter-attack this was not carried out. The remaining two platoons worked on Shrimp Alley and only 1 casualty was sustained.

"D" Company moved off at 9.30pm to continue on the same work as the previous night, but owing to the heavy shelling (which unfortunately caused a great number of casualties) the work had to be abandoned until the following night.

On the night of 22nd/23rd August, two platoons of "C" Company again proceeded to the work which had been abandoned the night before and this was completed. The remainder of the Company worked in Shrimp Alley. Casualties amounting to 3 O. R.s killed and 3 wounded were sustained during the completion of this work.

"D" Company moved forward to the scene of the previous nights work and this was also completed so that a complete belt of double apron wire had been erected along the whole front."

The War Diary records no further casualties until after the time that Ernest has died in hospital. He must, therefore have been amongst the casualties mentioned.

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