Ernest Dearnley (1898-1915)

This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.


George Dearnley died in the early summer of 1898 leaving his wife Emily a widow at 41 and with a child under two children to raise: Ernest aged 3 and John William only eleven months old. In the 1901 census the family lived in three rooms at 3 Fenay Lane and Emily, who came originally from Bolton-on-Dearne, worked as a charwoman to support the family. Ernest attended Almondbury Church Day and Sunday Schools, singing in the choir.

Emily Dearnley married Francis Watson, a domestic gardener, in the late summer of 1906 and by 1911 they had been together five years were living at 50 Northgate, Almondbury, with a new young son, Charles, aged 4. By the time Ernest joined the Territorial Battalion, West Riding Regiment, on 16 October 1914, the family were at 33 Cadogan Avenue, Lindley.

When he was medically examined at Huddersfield on 8 October, Ernest was described as being of "fair" physical development, 5' 5½" tall, with a chest size of 31 inches. His weight is not recorded, but his brother, John William, whom was conscripted in 1918 and was about the same size, weighed 110 lbs. and had dark hair and brown eyes. Like John, Ernest was probably vaccinated in infancy.[1]

On the 16 October, Ernest sign a form agree that, as a Territorial he would serve overseas should the "national emergency" require.

The army recorded no trade for Ernest but we know from the 1911 census that he was a "Cloth Finisher" in "Worsted manufacture", like his brother who the army described as a "wool piecer".

Ernest's signature seems unsteady as if writing did not come easily to him, though this may have been a consequence of the kind of pen or nib.

After a period of preparation in England, at, among other places, the new Clipstone Camp in Mansfield, the 1/5th Battalion sailed from Folkestone to France 15 April. By the autumn they were near in Ypres in Belgium.

Ernest's service was not without incident. He was diagnosed with scabies 9 November 1915 and admitted to hospital on the following day. On 19 December he was given a number of days "Field Punishment" (FP) for "Falling out without permission when on a working party". This was presumably behind the front line and involved repair work of one sort or another. He never completed much of his FP as he was "Killed in action" three days later on 21 December 1915. A letter from his officer, a Lieutenant Cockhill says he died instantly from a machine gun bullet. Ernest has no known grave, which may mean the location was lost later in the war. He had one year and 67 days service.

In May 1916, Emily received the personal possessions of her son. In 1919 she completed the standard form testifying to her relationship to Ernest and that of his surviving relatives, after which she would receive some small compensation for her loss. Like many of these forms, it was witnesses by E.O. Williams, the vicar of Lindley.

As well as being remembered in St. Stephen's church and on the Menin Gate, Ernest is also included on the Almondbury war memorial.

Ernest's brother John served from May 1918 through into the Rhine Army in the Notts and Derby Regiment until transferring into the R.A.M.C. He was discharged in late 1919 after a spell in hospital with scabies, first at Warrington and then Huddesrfield's Royds Hall.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield:

DEARNLEY, ERNEST. Private. No 3074. 1/5th Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment. Born Almondbury 19.1.1898. Son of John William Dearnley, 33 Cadogan Avenue, Lindley. Educated at Almondbury National School. Employed as a finisher. Single. Enlisted 21.9.1914. Killed in action, 21.12.1915. Has no known grave. Commemorated on the MENIN GATE MEMORIAL TO THE MISSING.
ROH:- St. Stephen's Church, Lindley; Huddersfield Drill Hall; Almondbury War Memorial.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission



Notes and References

  1. This was probably against smallpox.