Ernest’s time on active service during the War would prove to be less than 100 hours.
He was the son of John and Ann Howe of Dove Holes, Derbyshire. John was the local coal merchant and the couple had two children, Edith (born in 1885) and Ernest (born 1886). Nothing is known of Ernest’s early life but he realised his ambition to become a doctor, qualifying from Manchester University as a Batchelor of Medicine and a Batchelor of Surgery.
In the late summer of 1911, he married his fiancée, Gertrude F. St. John, in the South Manchester area. At about the same time, Ernest moved to Hazel Grove, taking up a position as the junior partner in one of the village’s two medical practices.
A Field Ambulance was an organisational unit of the army, not a vehicle. It had two main roles. Firstly it provided a number of dressing stations just behind the front line where a casualty might be given just enough treatment to allow him to be evacuated to a field hospital further to the rear. The Ambulance would also maintain a number of stretcher bearer “relay posts”, where the casualty would be carried back from the front line.
The unit’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that Ernest reported for duty on 11 December 1916. It was then at Tasli in northern Greece. The Diary continues with its entry for the 14th:
“Several enemy aeroplanes came over the Tasli area and dropped a number of bombs. One fell just outside this ….(illegible)….and fragments caused the death of Lt. E Howe, recently attached to the Field Ambulance and Rev. W H Firestone (C of E). In both cases help was at hand within a few seconds. Lt Howe succumbed to shock in spite of….(illegible)….shortly after his transfer to the dressing tent. Mr Firestone died of head injuries.”
Ernest was buried in the small Cemetery attached to the Ambulance but after the Armistice many of these small burial areas were closed. The bodies were exhumed and reinterred at Kalamaria where their graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. After the War, Gertrude Howe moved to live at “Croyde”, Mauldeth Road, Rhos on Sea, North Wales.
Some further information about Ernest is contained in the book “Hazel Grove to Armageddon” by John Eaton.