Ernest Silvester was born in Waltham St. Lawrence in 1883 to Charles and Emily Silvester.
He was the middle of five children and had two brothers and two sisters.
The family lived in Hungerford Lane, Shurlock Row and Ernest's father was an agricultural labourer.
In 1908 Ernest married Annie Elizabeth Beeton in Waltham St. Lawrence and they lived at Beenham Heath.
By 1911 they had three chiildren (Ernest, Ellen and Emily), and at that time Ernest was working at the Royal Oak as a general labourer.
Later they moved to Hinton Corner, Hurst where their family expanded to seven children.
Ernest was a carman (or delivery driver) when he enlisted for the duration of the war at Wokingham on 10th December 1915.
At the time his wife was expecting their sixth child.
Ernest was 32 years old and 5 feet 11 inches tall.
He was assigned to the Army Reserve and was not called up for service until 1st December 1916 when he joined the Grenadier Guards at Caterham.
After a period of training with 5th Battalion, he was transferred to 2nd Battalion and embarked for France from Southampton on 11th August 1917.
Ernest disembarked at Le Havre and marched the short distance to Guards Division Base Depot at Harfleur.
Soon he was transferred to 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, joining up with them on 2nd September 1917.
Guards Division was already engaged in the
Third Battle of Ypres
and Ernest arrived in time to participate in the Battles of
In November 1917 the Guards Division moved south from Flanders in readiness for the next Allied offensive.
Battle of Cambrai
they fought at Gonnelieu, Gouzeaucourt and Gauche Wood losing 125 officers and 2,966 men.
On 1st December 1917 the Guards Division was fighting at Gonnelieu when Ernest was first reported wounded in action and subsequently declared wounded and missing.
died of wounds sustained at nearby Gouzeaucourt within 24 hours of Ernest being reported missing.
On 12th December 1917 the Frankfurt Red Cross identified Ernest as a prisoner of war from
written by him as a prisoner.
He was described as slightly wounded and being held at the German Army Field Hospital (Kriegslaz), Le Cateau.
Only three days later Ernest died as a result of a gun shot wound to the upper arm.
He was 34 years old and had been in France for only four months.
His family did not know of his fate until 19th March 1918 and in the meantime Ernest's widow had given birth to their seventh child.
Ernest now rests in the
Le Cateau Military Cemetery,
During his military service from 1st December 1916 until his capture in 28th January 1918, Ernest wrote home nearly 100 letters to his family.
Interestingly despite being in France for 9 months and suffering with the Grenadier Guards through the fighting at the third battle of Ypres, Ernest never mentioned the war or his privations during it, which must have been quite severe.
This may have been down to censorship or just sparing his wife the worry for his safety.
Indeed it must have seemed to his widow that she was having a harder time looking after their young family of six children.
Quite soon after arriving at Caterham camp, Ernest regretted his choice of the Guards, because being a senior regiment, their standard in terms of discipline, neatness and fitness had to be exemplary, which set high standards in training.
Ernest did not appear to make many friends and their was an intolerance to sickness which was hard on a thirty-four year old with bad feet.
The correspondence was mainly domestic, and this may have been a way for Ernest to escape the horrors of the trenches.
Sick children, gardening, neighbours, all a distraction from the reality on the front.
Even finding the paper to write and keeping the letter clean in the trenches must have been quite difficult.