Son of Alfred and Mary Bygrave; husband of Doris Bygrave
Ernest was born on the 10th of September 1895 to parents Alfred and Mary Bygrave, of 21, Pye's
Yard, Norwich. Baptised at St. Martin at Palace Church on September the 24th, his father's occupation was recorded as
that of a Wire Weaver, employed in the act of weaving mesh wire or wire netting. One of five children, by the year of 1911
Ernest had found employment as a Boot Maker, his father at this juncture recorded as being employed at the Rose Lane Works
of Boulton & Paul Limited, manufacturers of various iron commodities both for agricultural and horticultural industries.
With the family now residing in the Foundry Bridge Building and at some point relocating to Number 105, St. George's Street,
Norwich, it is now that we turn our attentions to brothers, both Ernest and his elder brother Alfred, who answered their country's
call and joined the Colours.
Despite the lack of surviving service documents as regards Ernest, it appears that both brothers attested for military
service together at Norwich. Alfred, his documents surviving in the 'Burnt Series' at the T.N.A. WO 363, indicate
that both Alfred and Ernest attested on the 6th of November 1915 under the auspices of the "Derby" or "Group
Scheme," i.e. voluntary enlistment. The terms of their enlistment into the Territorial Force were that of 4 years Service
in the United Kingdom and after passing a preliminary medical examination, they were both declared as "fit" for
military service and subsequently posted to the East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
Alfred was issued the serial number 2644 and presumably, that issued to Ernest
would have followed in the same sequence, 2645 respectively. This sequence becomes more apparent when in 1917, the men of
the Territorial Force were re-numbered to a six digit sequence, Alfred being re-numbered as 876117, and Ernest, 876118 respectively.
Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
The First Line Brigade, the 1/1st Brigade respectively, had originally been allocated as Divisional Artillery to
the 54th (East Anglian) Division however when the latter proceeded to the Dardanelles in July 1915, their artillery remained
in England. After a period of attachment to the 2nd Line Brigade, the 1/1st Brigade re-armed with 18-pounder guns and proceeded
overseas to join the 33rd Division on the Western Front in November 1915. After a short period providing artillery for this
division, the 1/1st Brigade embarked for Egypt in early 1916 whereupon it rejoined the 54th Division and remained in Egypt
and Palestine for the remainder of the war.
The formation of the Second Line Brigade, the 2/1st Brigade respectively, had been authorised in August 1914. Separating
men who had signed the "Imperial And General Service Obligation," i.e., those who had agreed to serve in
any place outside the United Kingdom during their present period of embodiment from those who had volunteered for 'Home
Service,' the formation of the 2/1st Brigade was born. By November 1914, the brigade were contained in the 2nd East Anglian
Division, a Second Line Territorial Division later re-designated the 69th (2nd East Anglian) Division in August 1915.
A further Reserve was also formed in March 1915, the 3/1st respectively however this was later merged with the 4th Reserve
Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (Territorial Force) in August 1916.
Alfreds surviving service documents upon enlistment clearly state the 1st East
Anglian Brigade. As the latter were just about to depart for the Western Front, one can only surmise that both he and Ernest
were posted to the Second Line Brigade despite Alfred and Ernest signing the Overseas Obligation. Service is now for both
brothers somewhat ambiguous albeit Alfred's service with various units in the United Kingdom being documented. If Ernest's
movements and postings replicate that of his brother, by the year of 1918 both brothers found themselves billeted with the
Royal Field Artillery at Wetherby.
Little information is known of the exact unit that Ernest served with at Wetherby but the latter would have been
designated as a Reserve Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery that was utilised for the training and posting of drafts to the
front. Various artillery units had been stationed in the locality from the commencement of hostilities, the lands of the Gunter
family at Grange Park proving most suitable for the establishment of training facilities as offered to the fledgling 155th
Brigade, R.F.A. in 1915. An analysis of various sources including pension records reveals a suprising myriad of units stationed
in the town at various periods. In January 1916 for example, the 348th Brigade R.F.A. were stationed in the locality followed
in November of that year by the 345th Artillery Brigade, both units contained in the 2/1st East Anglian Brigade. In February
1917, the 38th Reserve Battery of the R.F.A. are recorded as being stationed at Wetherby with the 348th still being present
in the town until a move was made in April to Darlington. A detachment of the Army Service Corps were also stationed, a unit
of the Army Pay Corps in July 1917, and during the following month, the 1st Reserve Brigade, R.F.A. were at the very least
present or stationed in the locality.
As units both infantry and artillery units came and went,
many a long to be established friendship grew between both visitor and town resident, many, resulting in a romantic encounter
with a local girl that ultimately led to marriage. Ernest was no exception and a relationship blossomed with one Doris Adkin,
18 years of age and residing in the town at Wentworth Terrace, Westgate. Doris was no stranger to the war with her eldest
brother Leonard, being captured in September 1914 whilst serving with the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment and subsequently made
a Prisoner of War in Germany. Her youngest brother, Jessie, had also been serving on the Western Front since 1915 with the
1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment.
On the 2nd of February 1918, Ernest married Doris at St. James Parish Church, Wetherby, the witnesses to this happy
union being the brides brother, George Parr Adkin, and friend of the bride, Ruth Wilkinson, of the West End, Wetherby. It
is of interest to note that Ernest's occupation is recorded as just that of a "Soldier" with no reference to
any unit or the artillery for that matter. As regards those present at the marriage, Ruth's brother, William, was also
serving alongside Jessie Adkin in the 1/5th West Yorkshire's. Both would ultimately die together in a little over two
Front: The Origins Of The 18th Brigade, Army Field Artillery Brigade
Due to the lack of surviving service documents, the exact
date of Ernest's posting overseas is unknown. If however his service reflects that of his brother, he was posted overseas
in late March 1918, embarking at Southampton and disembarking at Le Havre on the 28th of March 1918. Posted to a Base Depot
to receive further training in all aspects of warfare and for administration purposes, both Ernest and his brother Alfred
were subsequently posted to the 18th Army Field Artillery Brigade on the 29th of April 1918 "in the field."
The 18th Brigade, Royal
Field Artillery, Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Glynn Ouseley D.S.O., had served on the Western Front since late
September 1914 and initially formed part of the Divisional Artillery of the 3rd (Lahore) Division of the Indian Army. Witnessing
action at First Ypres, the year of 1915 would find the brigade participating in numerous actions such as the Battle of Neuve
Chapelle, Second Ypres and the Battles of Aubers Ridge and Festubert respectively. Upon the 3rd (Lahore) Division departing
for Mesopotamia in late 1915, both the 18th and the 5th Brigades (less 73rd Battery of the latter brigade) R.F.A. came under
the command of the 3rd Canadian Division in March 1916, Officer Commanding 18th Brigade at this juncture being one Lieutenant-Colonel
Clement Arthur Sykes. (Authors note: Colonel Ouseley C.M.G., D.S.O. promoted to the Temporary rank of Brigadier-General, Colonel
Sykes assuming command of the brigade on the 20th of January). Now Serving in the Ypres Salient until relieved from this command
on the night 11th/12th of July, the Lahore Divisional Artillery were then attached to the Fourth Army and the 4th Australian
Division. (Authors note: 5th, 11th and 18th Brigades plus Ammunition Column attached due to Australian Divisional Artillery
in training). Journeying south to support the Australians in offensive operations on the Somme throughout the remainder of
July and August, when the 4th Australian Division moved northwards to Ypres in early September, the Lahore Divisional Artillery
remained in action on the Somme providing fire support for the Canadians in their attacks on Courcelette and Regina Trench.
The year of 1917 would witness
the Lahore Artillery still in support of the Canadians after moving northwards to Bully Grenay in late 1916. On the 9th of
February 1917 whilst performing duties in support of the 4th Canadian Division near Vimy Ridge, the 18th Brigade was re-designated
as the 18th Army Field Artillery Brigade and comprised of "A" Battery, 59th Battery, 94th Battery and "D"
Battery (Howitzer) plus associated Brigade Ammunition Column (B.A.C.) in addition to Headquarters.
Supporting the 4th Canadian Division in their successful attack on Vimy Ridge on
the 9th of April and witnessing actions during the various phases of the Arras offensive, Colonel Sykes was replaced by Major
Cecil Horace Clark D.S.O. during the following month.
In July, the 18th Army Field Artillery Brigade and associated batteries began
to move northwards to Belgium whereupon it would then be placed under the command of the Fifth Army. With the Allied offensive
of Third Ypres just a few days old, the 18th A.F.A. first went into action in the Salient on the 11th of August upon the relief
of the 113th A.F.A. at positions near Zillebeke.