Ernest Woodard was born in Croydon in 1893 to James and Sarah Woodard, and was the fourth of five children.
By 1901 he was living with his brother and four sisters in Ewell Road, Surbiton where his father was a plumber and sanitary engineer.
Ernest remained in Surrey and was a plumber living in Tolworth prior to enlisting into the army at Surbiton during the First World War.
At some point his parents had moved to Hurst and were running the Wheelwright Arms.
Ernest joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Private in the 2/1st West Lancashire Field Ambulance.
This Territorial unit was training at Larkhill Camp on Salisbury until the start of 1916 when they were directed to the Western Front in support of the 55th Division.
On 16th January 1916 the men marched to Amesbury and then travelled by train to Southampton.
They crossed the channel to Le Havre aboard three transport ships, Mona's Queen, Vivid and Inventor.
It is not known whether Ernest sailed for France with the Field Ambulance or if he joined them later, but by September 1917 he was with the unit near Ypres.
Field Ambulance units provided a key link in the chain of medical facilities that stretched from the front-line positions right back to hospitals in Britain.
They played a crucial role as the Field Ambulance cared for men soon after they had received their wounds.
If possible a wounded man would first be treated at a Regimental Aid Post (RAP), a small and often temporary position near or in the front lines.
Here a Medical Officer with two orderlies and a number of stretcher bearers would carry out first-aid.
A wounded man would either make his own way there or be carried in.
The facilities were crude and often just sufficed to carry out light first aid and give the casualty a drink.
This might be sufficient treatment for superficial injuries, enabling men to return to their units, but more serious cases would be passed on to the Field Ambulance.
The Field Ambulance would attempt to treat the man, or again do just enough to ensure he could be passed on to a Casualty Clearing Station.
The theoretical capacity of the Field Ambulance was 150 casualties, but in battle they would often be overwhelmed by numbers.
The Ambulance was responsible for a number of points along the evacuation chain, including the Bearer Relay Posts up to 600 yards behind the RAPs, the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), and the Main Dressing Station (MDS).
It also provided a Walking Wounded Collecting Station, as well as various rest areas and local sick rooms.
Casualties moving on to the ADS and MDS were carried by hand carriage, wheeled stretchers, trolley lines, etc. as conditions permitted.
Relay posts for stretcher bearers were established every 1000 yards and, to avoid congestion, certain communication trenches were allocated for the removal of casualties.
The men of Field Ambulance did not carry weapons but saw the full horror of war and often became casualties themselves.
On 20th September 1917 the 2/1st West Lancashire Field Ambulance was at Wieltje on the
preparing to support 55th Division in an offensive that became known as the Battle of Menin Road Ridge.
The Unit War Diary tells the story:
Wieltje 20 Sept 1917|
All available Bearers both RAMC and Infantry proceeded on foot to WIELTJE for duty.
At ZERO hour (5.40 a.m.) and as the attack progressed the Bearer Officers on duty inspected the routes between ADS, Relay Posts & RAPs while the Combatant Officers superintended the work of the Infantry Stretcher Bearers.
By means of the runners attached to each Medical Officer, RAPs and ADS were kept in close touch with each other.
As the wounded began to arrive at the ADS all the arrangements made prior to ZERO were carefully inspected and watched.
They were found to be working very smoothly and when the attack developed the evacuation of the wounded from the Front line to the ADS and on to the Corps MDS proceeded in a highly satisfactory manner.
5p.m. Capt L B Stott was relieved and returned to CANAL BANK YPRES.
Capt H Whitaker was detached for duty with 75 Lancs Fusiliers.
Capt J Sullivan took over collecting post at ST JEAN.
Four men of the Field Ambulance were wounded.
PTEs LAWTON & LOWTHIAN were evacuated, and PTEs McGREGOR & STOREY were wounded and remained at duty.
Wieltje 21 Sept 1917|
The fighting was fierce and casualties came with great regularity, but the evacuation of the wounded continued without any hitch.
497534 PTE WOODARD H (sic) of this Unit was killed whilst doing his duty as a bearer.
Wieltje 22 Sept 1917|
A large percentage of the wounded who came through at this stage of the fighting were German.
O/C 2/1 N. Midland F.A. came to look over the ADS.
Ernest Woodard was killed in action on 21st September 1917 and now rests in the
Wieltje Farm Cemetery,
close to where he fell.
Ernest was twenty-five years old.