ALLEN, Ernest

Private Ernest Allen
1892 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.)
77252 D Brigade Machine Gun Corps (Heavy)
77252 4th Battalion Tank Corps

Above: Ernest Allen aged 16 years at camp with the Sherwood Foresters prior to World War One.

Special thanks go to Ernest’s granddaughter Anne Goatley for sharing these wonderful photographs with us.

Ironville school records for October 1903 show Ernest was a pupil and his father was Edwin. They lived at 14 Albert Street, Ironville.

He appears on the 1918/19 ‘Absent Voters Roll’ as a resident of Franklin Road, Jacksdale and his Medal Rolls Index Card indicates that he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War Medals.

Anne Goatley, granddaughter of Ernest Allen has very kindly provided us with the following account:-

Ernest was born 9th December 1896 at Kilndown, near Goudhurst, Kent. His father, Edwin had been born in Ripley, but his grandfather and great-grandfather had been lead miners in Winster, Derbyshire. When the coal pits opened his grandfather, Thomas, left Winster and found work in the pits near Ripley. Edwin had met and married a girl named Melinda Young from Goudhurst and had gone to live there and work as a grocer’s assistant. A girl was born in 1895 and then Ernest in 1896. Melinda started to lose her sight and as the Nottingham Eye Hospital was the best in the country they decided to come back to Derbyshire and set up home in Ironville. The hospital could not do anything for her and she became blind. They finally ended up in Franklin Road, Jacksdale around 1916. By this time there were three more children. Ernest spent his schooldays at Ironville School and had vivid memories of the strict discipline there including the cane!

After leaving school at 14 he went to work at a butchers in Jacksdale for a while. When he was 16 he and a friend, Bill Hughes, decided to join the Territorial Army, much to his father’s disapproval. He enlisted on April 24th 1913 in the 5th Battalion, Notts and Derby Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters) as a Private, Regimental Number 1892, at Ripley. His Army record described his occupation as a Coal Miner. His height was 5ft 3in and his chest measurement was 33, so he was not fully grown by then. He did his annual training with the army and was with them on August 4th 1914, when war with Germany started. Therefore he was on what they called Embodied Service from August 5th 1914. He was not 18 until the December. He finally joined the Expeditionary Force to France on March 1st 1915, and was there until September when he received a shrapnel wound to his left knee. He was sent home to recuperate.

Christmas 1915 – Ernest Allen is in the hospital bed, 2nd from the top on the right.

Ernest was sent back to France the day after his 19th birthday in December. He embarked at Southampton on Dec 10th and arrived at Rouen on 11th December. It was his last trip home for the next three years. Early in May 1916 he joined “D” Brigade Machine Gun Corps, spending a week in July on a Lewis Gun course where he got a first class pass.

In May 1917 he was transferred to M. G. Corp (Heavy Branch) and received a new number 77252. After a visit to the Field Hospital a few times with scabies caught while in the trenches, he was put on duty as a Batman for a week to recover. In a letter home he said that he had spent his 21st Birthday in the trenches in December 1917.

In January 1918 he was sent to the 4th Battalion Tank Corp and back to the battlefield. Sometime at the end of March/April he was badly wounded with gunshot wounds to his left arm and thigh, almost certainly sustained during one of the German spring offensives of March – April 1918 and most probably during one of the First Battles of the Somme (1918) which were also known as “Operation Michael” or the “Kaiserschlacht”. He did not say a lot about this time in France but he did say that he spent a couple of days on the battlefield before he was picked up and when he got to the field hospital, they poured iodine into his wounds which nearly sent him to the ceiling with pain. It must have worked for he got better from his wounds. He was sent back home to England and spent the next three months in Thornton Manor Hospital, Cheshire. He always said that this was the most wonderful place he had ever been and they were looked after so well. He loved fishing for eels in the lake there and then took them back to the kitchens where they were cooked for their dinner.

At the convalescence home – hospital sports.

He was back in France by September 1918. The war was coming to an end by this time and by December he was back in England at North Camp, Ripon where he was de-mobbed. He was finally discharged on March 31st 1920.

On August 6th 1923 Ernest married Janet Driscoll his long time sweetheart, and went to live at Pye Hill. He was working as a miner at Pye Hill Colliery where his father also worked. In 1924 twin girls were born, Joyce and Catherine. Catherine sadly died in 1928. Ernest was fond of gardening and had an allotment at Fletchers Row, where he grew a lot of fruit, a good assortment of vegetables and always a couple of rows of flowers for Janet. Sweet Williams were one of his favourite flowers. Joyce used to love going in his wheelbarrow and helping to pick fruit etc. Billiards and snooker were amongst his favourite games. He played at Jacksdale Institute which was run by Mrs. Finney, a friend of Janet’s. He played with one famous name, Joe Davis and he won a silver topped cane in one competition. A fair used to be held every year in Jacksdale, in the grounds of the Portland Arms, and Joyce always came home with a cap full of monkey nuts and a coconut won by Ernest at the rifle range. Holidays were a day out at Skegness with the Chapel or at Tichfield Park, Hucknall.

Just before the Second World War he went to work at Cotes Park Colliery at Somercotes and all through the war, he worked 12 hours a day stoking the boilers. He retired when he was 65. Eventually he went to live in Brinsley with Joyce (who by then had been married to Arthur Storer for nearly 20 years). He died on May 29th 1968 of Heart Failure and Emphysema. He had been gassed in W.W.1 and had always had a cough. Smoking cigarettes, as everyone did, was not good for him and his years down the pit took its toll. He was buried in St Helens Church alongside his wife.