Ernest SPINK
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 12462
Unit: 19th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 23 July 1916
Age: 30 (possibly)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Very little is known of Ernest's early life. Regimental records published after the War indicate he had been born in the Broughton area of Salford and the family history website, FreeBMD, records the local registration of the birth of a boy of that name in the March quarter of 1886.

The family moved to Heaton Moor at some point where they lived at 23 Shaw Road. Ernest had previously worked for J & N Philips Ltd but more recently had set up his own business in offices at Back Piccadilly,  where he acted as an agent for various manufacturers.

In early September 1914, he enlisted into the army, joining the fourth of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment. He was assigned to No. 14 Platoon, "D" Company. Some details of the Battalion's recruitment and training can be found here. In November 1915, the Battalion was deemed ready for War and it left Britain to go on active service in France.

During the evening of 22 July 1916, Ernest arrived in assembly positions in a German trench captured earlier in the month. In front of them was Trones Wood and, beyond that, the village of Guillemont. This move forward had been spotted by the enemy who kept up a regular artillery barrage on the Manchesters throughout the night. In the early hours of the 23rd, they moved through the wood and into their final positions.

At 3.40am, Ernest left the relative safety of the trench and advanced across open ground towards the village. They were immediately subjected to heavy rifle, machine gun and artillery fire. However, casualties were not heavy until they reached unbroken German barbed wire. Leading elements of the Battalion managed to reach the village. On the left of the attack, "A" Company was suffering massive losses from concentrated machine gun fire and had to fall back. The Company had been reduced to about 30 fit men. In the centre, "C" company made progress into the village but was now attacked from three sides and cut off from the rest of the Battalion. On the right, "D" Company had been unable to penetrate the barbed wire and the men had to try to find cover in the open fields. They were so close to the Germans that they were in grenade-throwing range and came under heavy attack form these. "B" Company was in support of "D" and also lost many men.

By 6am, it was clear that the attack had failed and they would have to withdraw. This had to be undertaken over the open ground with minimal protection. Small groups of men managed to make it back to the assembly trenches, throughout the morning. Of these, only a handful were from "A" Company. No-one from "C" Company reported back. "B" and "D" Companies had fared slightly better.

By late afternoon, the remnants of the Battalion were relieved from the front line. Because it had not been possible to recover the bodies of the dead, some 493 Pals were reported as "missing". Ernest's body was never found and identified and he is commemorated, along with some 73,000 Missing of the Somme, on the Thiepval Memorial. Other local men killed in the attack were Tom Pugh, Robert Russell and Alan Adshead. None has a known grave.

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