Ernest Swindells was born in Romiley on 10 January 1884. His father, Wilbraham, later lived at High Lane, Disley.
Nothing is known of Ernest's early life. At some point, he emigrated to Canada, settling near the town of Lloydminster, on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, where he earned his living as a farmer. On 16 December 1915, he travelled into town to enlist in the army. His attestation papers survive and are available on-line at the Canadian national Archives. They show he was 5 feet, 10 inches - tall for those days - and had a 39 inch chest. He was of a dark complexion, with black hair and brown eyes. His only distinguishing mark was a scar on his left hand. Ernest had recorded his religion as Church of England.
It's not known when he crossed the Atlantic, first for the UK and then to the Western front but, allowing for the time for him to be trained, it is unlikely to have been before late spring/early summer 1916.
In mid-August 1916, the Battle of the Somme had been raging for several weeks but, further north, it was a relatively quiet time. On 11 August, the Rifles, now acting as ordinary infantry, started a tour of duty in the front line trenches that would be Ernest's last. Their positions were at an important observation point known as The Bluff. This slight hill had been artificially created by the dumped spoil from the excavation of the Ypres-Comines canal and was a considerable vantage point in flat land of Flanders.
The Rifles' War Diary for this period is extremely detailed, unusually including the names of the men wounded and the nature of their wounds. For the 14 August, it records "Weather dull and cloudy with showers of rain. In early morning "stand to" was ordered at 2.30. Heavy bombardment to our right. 29th Battalion raided during that time and inflicted several casualties and brought in one prisoner. Morning situation quiet. Afternoon and evening, considerable artillery exchanges causing casualties." It then continues to record the details of the men injured. Most had received relatively minor shrapnel wounds, but amongst the list is noted "114072 Pte Swindells J. E. killed by high explosive shell at 11.45pm. Trench 29" Ernest is now buried nearby.