Ernest was born in Stockport and is thought to have lived all his life in the town until he enlisted into the army. Nothing else is known except that, in 1914, he married Amy Lowe at Tiviot Dale Methodist Church. In the 1920s, Amy was living at 119 School Yard, Heaton Mersey but it's not known if this was the home she shared with Ernest.
When Jim joined the army, he was assigned to the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. His service number, 203819, confirms that he joined the 4th Battalion and it was not before the beginning of 1917. He went on active service with the Regiment and it is not known when or under what circumstances he was transferred to the Warwicks.
At the end of November, the British Army launched a large scale attack on the Germans near the northern French town of Cambrai. The advance lasted several days but, by the end of the month, the Germans had regrouped and were heavily counter-attacking.
In this sector, the front line had moved several times over the course of the War and the trench systems, originally separate, had now become interlinked. On the 5th, the German attack took the form of occasional very heavy shelling of the Warwicks positions followed by an infantry attack through the trench system. The Germans would move down the trench, throwing grenades in front of them to clear the way. The British returned fire in kind and a vicious grenade "duel" took place in Emden Trench. The day's fighting had left Ernest and 11 of his comrades dead and another 52 wounded. Amongst the wounded of the day or the next day was another local man, John Dickens.