1917 could not have been a worse year for William & Emily Maiden. Three times the postman would arrive with the dreaded letter from the War Office. The first time was in February when news came of Arthur Maiden's death in France. Eli was next to die in May. And the grieving would not be over before the news came from Palestine about Ernest. A fourth brother, Elias, was discharged from the army after being gassed. Albert (Bert) Maiden served with a garrison battalion in India
The family originated from Dawley in Shropshire where William Maiden earned his living as a clay miner. He was married to Emily and, when the census was taken in 1901, they were living at Sandy Bank Row. This accommodation comprised just three rooms and had to accommodate the couple and their eight children. It is not known when they moved to the Stockport area
Ernest was not an early volunteer for the army and it was probably not until 1916 that he joined up at Stockport being assigned to one of the Territorial battalions of the Cheshire Regiment. It was probably the local 6th Battalion and he was given 4074 as his service number. However, this was for training purposes only and, before going overseas later in the year, he was transferred to the Fusiliers. All of his service will have been in Palestine.
In the early hours of 6 November, Ernest and his comrades left their bivouacs to be part of an attack on Turkish positions at Tel el Khuweilfeyi - north of the town of Beersheba. They left about 2.30am and took up assembly positions in a wadi, well before the artillery bombardment of the enemy started at 4am. They advanced immediately and had gained their objectives by 4.55. There had been little opposition except from a couple of isolated pockets of resistance of Turkish grenadiers.
The Turks immediately counter-attacked in strength forcing the British back some 200 yards. Their light machine gun crews were deploying to the flanks of the Fusiliers and they covered an attack from both flanks. The Battalion's War Diary records "They were immediately attacked with the bayonet, three successive charges being made, enabling the Battalion to regain the ground originally occupied. Owing, however, to the enemy machine guns which were now in position on our right rear, it was found necessary to withdraw again to the second position. This position was consolidated under heavy fire and held for the remainder of the day in spite of very heavy casualties - over 50% of the officers and about 30% of the men being killed or wounded." Ernest and another local man, Sydney Downs, were amongst the dead.