237062 1st/4th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
Ernest was born on 2 October 1898 in Sudbury, one of seven children of Harry and Agnes Annie Lever. The family lived at 35 Melford Road, where his father was the publican of The Plough. Ernest was a founder member of 3rd Sudbury Scout Troop, which was formed in 1912 and he was employed as a mechanic. His parents later moved to 107 Queen’s Road, Sudbury.
Prior to transferring to the Northumberland Fusiliers Ernest served as Trooper 170856 with the Sussex Yeomanry. The 4th Battalion formed part of 149th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division. Ernest returned to the front in March 1918 after being a witness at his sister’s wedding. His sister Lily recalled ‘waving from the house as he disappeared into North Street on his way back to France’. Shortly after returning to the front Ernest was taken prisoner.
On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. Operation Michael was a vast attack along the whole Somme sector front with the aim to destroy the British Army. The Germans advanced quickly and deeply with heavy losses for the Allies during March and April 1918. It is very likely Ernest was taken prisoner at this time.
In October 1918 he sent a letter home from Langensalza Camp, where he was being held prisoner. The camp conditions were described by a fellow prisoner Corporal Golding of 8th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment in 1919 as having very bad sanitation and prisoners sent behind the lines to work as being terribly emaciated; the only medical comforts and food they received were from the British Help Committee, formed by fellow prisoners.
Ernest died aged 20 on 3 November 1918, just one week before the Armistice. It is not known if he died through the poor camp conditions or from the influenza pandemic that swept across Europe at that time. Ernest lies buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany. His nephew Mr Ernest Shaw was named after him.
Ernest was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
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