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Ernest Silvester as a carman in Shurlock Row
Ernest Silvester as a carman in Shurlock Row
After the Battle of Passchendaele, Flanders, November 1917, Canadian soldier.
After the Battle of Passchendaele, November 1917
Prisoner of War postcard from Ernest Silvester
PoW postcard from Ernest Silvester
Prisoner of War postcard from Ernest Silvester
PoW postcard from Ernest Silvester
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Silvester, Ernest

Ernest Silvester
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private Ernest Silvester (28227)
Died of Wounds while POW on Saturday 15th December 1917
Battle of Cambrai, aged 34
Son of Charles & Emily Silvester
Father's occupation: Agricultural Labourer
Born Q1 1884 at Waltham St Lawrence
2 sisters, 2 brothers, position in family: 3
Relatives: Wife - Annie Elizabeth Silvester, née Beeton m.Q1 1908. Son in law - Corporal Horace Holmans
Local address: Hinton Corner, Hurst
Pre-war occupation: Delivery driver
Enlisted:Wokingham, Friday 10th December 1915
Regiment:Grenadier Guards
Battalion:4th Bn.
Brigade:3rd Gds
Went overseas:Saturday 11th August 1917
Died:Saturday 15th December 1917
Cause:Died of Wounds while POW
Action:Battle of Cambrai
Battalion at:Gonnelieu
Commemorated:Grave at Le Cateau Military Cemetery

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 Poelcappelle and Passchendaele. In November 1917 the Guards Division moved south from Flanders in readiness for the next Allied offensive. During the 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. Sidney Pinchin and Edward Chipperfield 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 a postcard 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, France.

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.


Ernest Silvester at Le Cateau Military Cemetery
Le Cateau Military Cemetery
Peace perfect peace

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon