Official records differ about Ernest's age. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records him as being 17 when he was killed. However, the 1901 Census records him as being 5 and, therefore, being 21 or 22 when he died. And the family history website, FreeBMD, records a birth being registered between July and September 1899, making him about 18.
What is certain is that his parents John Tomlinson and Clara Whitehead married at Christ Church, Heaton Norris in the late summer of 1898. When the Census was taken, John was then aged 30 and working as a railway guard. Clara was 23 and had not long since given birth to 3 month old Edith. The family was living at Greenfield Terrace, Adswood.
Ernest's entitlement to service medals can be viewed on-line at the National Archives. These show the first service overseas was with the Army Cyclist Corps. He had the service number 190. The man with the next number, 191, was killed on 22 August 1915. Although it is known that many boys enlisted into the army under the legal age of 18, by lying about their age, it is most unlikely that Ernest joined at 13. It is, therefore, likely that he was in fact 21 or 22 when he was killed.
In April 1918, the village of Hangard formed the junction between Commonwealth and French forces on the Somme, defending the city of Amiens from a massive German attack. The village and its surrounding area saw heavy fighting all month. On the 25th, the 10th Essex received orders to recapture Hangard Wood which had been taken by the Germans on the 24th.
At 1am on the 26th, Ernest and his comrades were in assembly positions on a frontage of 600 yards. The Battalion History records that the "chief excitement of the early morning was the brigade major, Captain H James VC, riding his horse in front of the troops, almost up to the German position, yet escaping injury." The Battalion's objective would be a road running through the eastern and western parts of the Wood.
"The advance at 5.15am was not well supported by artillery fire, shells falling scantily. The leading companies suffered much from enemy machine guns, which remained unsubdued for some time, for three British tanks were unable to locate it at the northern edge of the Wood. Nevertheless, though reduced to a handful, the Battalion took and held their objective, digging in on a track running north and south through the Wood. The casualties were very severe, including 12 officers and 201 other ranks. The strength of companies was reduced to an average of from sixty to seventy."
The surviving men then had to put up with two hours of continuous shelling during the night, which caused even more casualties. It is not known if Ernest simply disappeared, having by hit by an artillery shell, or if he was buried and the grave's location later lost, but he now has no known burial place.