Rank: Private
Number: 31904
Unit: 2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 7 June 1918
Cemetery: Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, Pas de Calais, France

Ernest was born in Winder, Derbyshire but moved to Hazel Grove as a young boy, with his younger brother William. It is not known what had happened to their parents. At the time of the 1901 census, Wilfred, then 16, was living at the home of George Bester at 7 Queens Road, Hazel Grove. Ernest does not appear to have been living locally at the time.

He enlisted into the army at Stockport and his service number suggests that this was probably not before mid-1916.

The South Lancashires were in the thick of the heavy fighting which followed the German spring offensives which started on 21 March 1918. There were further major attacks in during April, which left all the Battalions which comprised the British 25th Division with many casualties. Inadequately trained new recruits were rushed to them from Britain and the whole Division was moved to a quiet sector in the Champagne region to re-organise and refit.

They could not have known that, on 27 May, they would be in exactly the spot where the Germans would launch their third and final assault, in what would become known as the Third Battle of the Aisne. The main area attacked was between the towns of Soissons and Reims. At 1am, the Germans heavily shelled the whole of the area, including the villages well to the rear where the reserve troops, including the South Lancashires, were based.

As soon as the scale of the attack became clear, 25th Division was ordered to take up a second line of defence. The South Lancashires were in the middle of the line around the village of Roucy. They were not attacked until the afternoon. By 5pm, it was necessary for the troops to begin a gradual retreat. As they did so, a company of German infantry was mistaken for being the South Lancashires and was able to occupy a good position to harry the retreat. The withdrawal continued for the next two days. By the end of this, most of the Battalions had suffered so many casualties - dead, wounded, prisoner or missing - that they had ceased to function as separate units.

It is not known when Ernest was very badly wounded. It could have been any time during the previous weeks, but it is likely that it was during the May engagements. He would have received attention, from the Battalion's own medical officer just behind the front line and would then have been evacuated to a field hospital (Casualty Clearing Station) some miles behind the front lines. There, military surgeons would have undertaken the necessary surgery to stabilise his condition. He would then have been further evacuated to one of the many "stationery" hospitals based around the Boulogne and Calais area, where he died a few days later. He is buried in the Cemetery used by many of the hospitals.

Further information about Ernest can be found in the book "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton. Mr Eaton records Ernest's place of burial as the Epernay French National Cemetery, which is not the information recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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