Ernest POLLITT
Rank: Private
Number: 276412
Unit: 1/7th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 26 March 1918
Age: 27 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Ernest lived all his life in the Stockport area until he enlisted into the army. His parents, Edwin Pollitt and Edith Bowden had married in the late 1880s at St Mary's Church. Their first child, Ethel, was born in about 1889 and, two years later, Ernest was born. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at 191 Newbridge Lane in the Portwood area of town. Ernest now had a younger brother and sister - Joseph and Hilda.

Ernest worked as a greengrocer. Although it is not known who his employer was, there was called James Pollitt who had a greengrocer's shop just over the road at 186 Newbridge Lane and who was probably a relative and his boss. On 4 November 1911, Ernest married his fiancée, Lily Burgess, at St Paul's Church, Portwood. One of the two people witnessing the signing of the marriage certificate was his sister Ethel and it's probable she and Lily were friends.

Ernest's service number was not issued before the beginning of 1917 and, by that time of the War, he will have joined as a conscript. It is not known when he first went overseas on active service.

On 21 March 1918, the German Army launched an attack on the British trenches that, within hours, had overwhelmed the troops in positions around the French town of St Quentin. An attack had been long predicted - all that was not known was where it would fall and when. Ernest and his comrades were in reserve but, at 8.55pm on the 22nd, they received orders to dump non-essential supplies and make ready to move. Overnight, they were bussed south, arriving near the village of Ayette, just over 24 hours later. They deployed immediately, taking up a defensive position between the village of Ablainville and the crossroads on the road between Ayette and Courcelles.

Later in the day, they were ordered south to positions at Gomiecourt. They remained here all through the 25th without coming into direct contact with the German infantry. The Battalion History recounts that they had spread out fanwise holding scattered outposts and "it was not long after daylight before the enemy began to drop shell indiscriminately about this ground".

At 2am on the 26th, the Battalion was withdrawn to a new defensive position at Logeast Wood. They had hardly settled themselves in before new orders arrived withdrawing them further to a position between Bucquoy and Ablainzeville. There were no trenches and the men lay out in the open, prior to starting to dig-in. "Platoons had barely been allotted their areas when clumps of Huns began to appear on the ridge we had just vacated. They proved to be teams of light machine gunners and without preliminaries in the manner of searching for cover, they promptly opened fire, and soon there was a perfect hail of grazing bullets swishing over the Battalion area. German officers calmly walked about directing operations and the whole scene resembled a "stunt on the pictures" rather than modern war. They had made a mistake though and if they were seeking the dramatic effect it was only short-lived. Our men were delighted at the perfect target they presented on the skyline and rat-tat-tatted merrily in reply to the Hun swish."

At about noon, the Germans started to shell the Manchesters' positions; first with light guns, then with heavier artillery. During the afternoon, the German infantry could be seen assembling about 800 yards away in preparation for an attack but it failed to materialise. The night passed quietly. In spite of the dangers of the day, the Manchesters' casualties had been light. Only two men had been killed - Ernest and John Carroll from Salford.

   
           
   
     
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