The Dud Corner Memorial to Ernest Hart
The photographs above were taken in September of 2011. It was a dull, rainy day. There were no other visitors to the cemetery while I was there and there were no passersby, so I was unable to get a photograph of myself at the memorial. In the previous days there had only been a couple of visitors. This cemetery bears inscriptions of about 155 soldiers of the 7th Bn. Norfolk Regiment who were killed on 13 October 1915 in the battle of Loos
St. Michael's Church
St. Michael's Church in Maidstone has a Book of
Remembrance in which his name is listed. The church
also has a memorial stain glass window that is
dedicated to the memory of the 93 soldiers of the
parish who were killed during WWI. On Remembrance
Sunday each year, these names, including "Ernest Hart"
are read during the service. 
In addition commemorating the 100th anniversary of his
death Ernest was included in prayers at the Eucharist
service on 11 October 2015 [1,4]
Maidstone Grammar School MemorialErnest was a student at Maidstone Grammar School from 1907 - 1911. Maidstone Grammar School has a memorial window in the chapel dedicated to the former students who were killed in the war. In addition there is an honours board on which their names are inscribed.
In observance of the one hundredth anniversary of his death the school headmaster, Mr. Tomkins states:
"Maidstone Grammar School prides itself on its history and the Old Maidstonians who fought and died in various battles are remembered on the School’s Remembrance Boards. We have two boards in the main school hall that remember the 45 former students who died during the 1st World War, and Ernest’s name is there. . . . to acknowledge the service and sad loss of each of the 45 boys who died, we have a framed picture in the main school lobby placed on our Foundation Stone and surrounded by poppies to remember them. Tomorrow [13 October 2015], the picture will be changed from Henry Robert Mount who died in May of 1915, and replaced with Ernest Hart. It will remain there until 4th March next year when the next Old Maidstonian died. This summer four members of staff decided to spend a week in Northern France visiting each of the 45 boys’ places of burial/memorials. They did it off their own back, and thought it important to do during this significant year. And also, each year, we acknowledge Remembrance Day inviting former students and governors in to school to join the current student and staff body in the tow minutes silence. We will go on remembering them."
The St. Mark's Memorial Inscription
Ernest was an alumnus of St. Mark's College in London (see below for more details). The college installed a memorial plaque in their chapel to commemorate those of their graduates who had made the ultimate sacrifice during WWI. Ernest is recognized on that table, his name being listed at the bottom of the middle column on the plaque.
Notre Dame de Lorette Memorial
The Military Record of Ernest HartAll soldiers have a military file and these files are kept by the national government. Sadly, during attacks in WWII, the personnel records of most British WWI soldiers were destroyed. I have searched without luck the remaining records and the file for Ernest is not among them. This greatly limits the amount of information available concerning his military experience. We can summarize what we have in the following short list:
Ernest Hart's Medals
As documented above, Ernest was awarded three medals for his services in WWI: the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914-15 Star. These medals were issued posthumously and have never been mounted. The medals passed to his brother Albert, then to his nephew John and are now in the possession of his grandniece, Christine. They are pictured below:
Ernest Hart's WWI medals (obverse)
These medals are not exceptional. The
Victory Medal (on the right) and the British War Medal
(center) were awarded to all active service men who served
. The 1914-15 Star is on the left. was awarded to those
who served in France in that time period. On the edge of
the two medals on the right is inscribed the notation
"12262 SJT. E. HART NORF R.". These medals had never been
worn by Ernest and had never been mounted for wearing, but
are shown in the order for mounting; the ribbons have only
been put on the medals for the first time to produce these
photographs. Colloquially, these three medals were
referred to as the 'Pip, Squeak and Alfred'.
Hart's WWI medals (reverse)
The medals would have been sent to Ernest's parents,
apparently in at least two shipments as we have the
following letter which accompanied the shipment of the
star (note that this occurred in October, 1920, five years
after his death.
The following points are of interest. The Star has been sent to Mrs. M.E. Hart. This is in contrast to the memorial inscription where Ernest is identified as the son of Mr. S.A. Hart. In both the memorial inscription and in this transmittal letter the address of Steven and Mary Elizabeth is given as 55 Milton Street, Maidstone, Kent. In addition to the medals, as the mother of a soldier killed in the war, Mary was presented with a medallion inscribed with Ernest's name.
I have frame mounted these few remaining articles of his life as shown in the photograph below:
The Military Life of Ernest HartEnlistment and Training
From the history of the Norfolk regiment we learn that the 7th Bn. was formed at Norwich Aug. 1914 and was initially assigned to Shorncliffe army base, near Folkestone in 35th Brigade of the 12th Div. In January 1915 it moved about 12 miles west along the coast to billets at Romney and Littlestone. A few weeks later in February it was moved to Malplaquet Barracks, Aldershot.
As far as we know Ernest was enlisted into the newly formed 7th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment, with which he served at his time of death. The photograph above shows him as a corporal and it was likely taken prior to his deployment to France which occurred on 30 May 1915. Since it would take a while to become a corporal and also some time to receive the necessary training to be deployed it is likely that he enlisted in the initial rush to arms that occurred in August and September of 1915 (creating what became known as Kitchener's New Army). In that his 1915 star was awarded to a corporal this is again an indication that he was deployed as a corporal. Prior to his death on 13 October 1915 he was promoted to Serjeant.
Deployment to France
The regimental war diary for the 7th Bn. of the Norfolk Regiment was started on 29 May 1915, the day before Ernest deployed to France. From that time, until the time of Ernest's death, we have a fairly accurate day by day record of the regiment's location and its activities. From this we can surmise where and what Ernest was doing during this period. It is instructive to read through this diary as a means of obtaining information on Ernest's movements and activities during his time in France.
The first entries on 29 May 1915 deal with the movement of the battalion to France and give us an understanding of its composition. The transport departed from Farnborough. It consisted of:
In two trains leaving the later afternoon of the 30th the headquarters of the 12th Division and the 35th Brigade together with the four companies and headquarters of the battalion left for Folkestone where they crossed to Boulogne in France on the S.S. Invicta. At Boulogne they marched from the docks a couple of miles to the camp at Ostrohove, and spent the night there. At this time the battalion had a strength of 30 officers and 954 O.R.s.
On the 31st they left in the morning from Pont de Briques in Boulogne by rail to Lumbres via St. Omer. There they went into billets in the local area. It should be noted that billets might be something such as a barn or out buildings for O.R.s with perhaps a bedroom or two in a house for the officers.
For the battalion which apparently had many Londoners in its ranks, it would have been infuriating to learn that on the evening of the 31st the first Zeppelin attack on London, by the LZ-38, occurred. It dropped 150 high explosive and incendiary bombs killing and wounding 42 people in the city. At the same time they were close enough to the front (about 25 miles) in these billets to hear any significant artillery shelling. The war would have become even closer and more personal and they would have likely been raring to avenge the attack.
Map of 7th Bn. Hampshire Regiment Locations June through September 1917
On arrival in France at Boulogne, the battalion moved via St. Omer (a well known rail center) to Lumbres where they spend a few days billeted around Quelmes. From there they moved to Renescure for a few days and then to Armentieres where they were billeted for four months, alternating time in billets with time on the line in Ploegsteert Wood on the southern edge of the Ypres salient. They shared a section of the line with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, spelling each other with one Regiment forward and the other in billets.
They remained in these billets at Lumbres until the 5th of June when they moved to Armentieres and then to Oosthove farm near there and in a rear position behind the lines at Ploegsteert Wood on the southern edge of the Ypres salient. They were given a training period on trench warfare by the 6th Gloucester Regiment and also performed trench and shelter construction activity under the supervision of the Royal Engineers. They constructed a new communications trench which was named the Norfolk communications Trench, in that area. The training and construction activities continued for much of June. The diary notes that the weather was fine in June and there was only one accidental casualty, a man who was hit by shrapnel while walking in the street of Armentieres.
During July things became a bit more active. There were practice bombardments of the BIRDCAGE, a German bunker that remained in German hands until almost the end of the war, in spite of many attempts by the allies to take it. There were mines blown by the Royal Canadian Regiment nearby. The battalion continued to build trenches and man the lines off and on. Towards the end of the month they started a series of rotation with with Royal Berkshire Regiment. This month, with the increased activity they started to take casualties with five men killed and 22 men and one officer wounded.
In August the activities of July continued but enemy fire of various kinds (artillery, sniping, etc.) was gradually increasing. They worked with the artillery to improve communications and responses to attack by improved signals and mapping. The work on improving trenches continued with shelter slits being added to the communications trenches. Now experienced to some extent they took on responsibilities of training newly arrived troops and spent the time between 17 and 23 August familiarizing the KRR (King's Royal Rifles) with trench warfare. The increased level of activity led to increased casualties and the battalion diary for the first time includes a casualty list for the month listing, by day, the number, rank, and name of the casualty and whether wounded or killed. About 6 men and one officer were killed with about 19 wounded, most of those on the 16th when a high explosive shell fell on a group of men. The list also includes the company that the casualties belonged to, with B company accounting for most of the casualties.
September continued much as August. Time was spent in the lines, working on trenches and back in the rear areas. Note is made of the success of snipers destroying enemy periscopes. Shelling occurred off and on. Then on the 25th, the day of the allied attack at Loos, 20 miles south of the Ploegsteert Wood, the battalion stood to in the rear lines and there was increased shelling from both sides. On the 26th orders were received to proceed to Merris and then on the 28th they were taken by motor bus to Gonnehem behind the lines in the vicinity of Loos. The battalion went into the line near Loos between the Chalk Pit and Loos on the 30th.
This movement was to provide additional troops, and many divisions were moved to the Loos sector. Amongst these divisions was 12th Division containing the 35th brigade of which the 7th Norfolks were one battalion.
To provide the required additional troops, other divisions were moved to the Loos sector. Amongst these divisions was 12th Division containing the 35th brigade of which the 7th Norfolks were one battalion.
The Battle of Loos
The battle of Loos, an attempt by the British forces under French and Haig to break through the line started with artillery preparation and the release of chlorine gas on the 25th of September. While some progress was made, no breakthrough occurred and continued small scale attempts were made in successive days. Artillery barrages from both sides were significant. To provide the required additional troops, other divisions were moved to the Loos sector. Amongst these divisions was 12th Division containing the 35th brigade of which the 7th Norfolks were one battalion.
The battalion was in new lines in an area that it did not know. The lines it was in were old German lines and efforts were made to convert them to effective fire and support trenches from the allied direction. The enemy kept up heavy bombardments. The battalion stayed in these lines until the 5th when it was relieved and moved back to reserve at Philosphe. During these first 4 days the battalion took many casualties and these were listed individually in the battalion diary. Both B and C companies were particularly hard hit. It is interesting to note the following casualties from C company:
12263 Pte. Cottle, C. wounded Oct 1
12267 Pte. Nobbs, A. killed in action, Oct 2
12280 Pte. Plunket, P. wounded Oct 3
12226 Sgt. Johnson wounded Oct 3
Ernest Hart's number was 12262. These were men that he enlisted with. All of these are C company casualties and it is likely, then, that Ernest was with C company. We cannot be absolutely sure. 12265 Pte. Harlock, H. of B company was wounded on the 4th.
While in billets at Philosophe, they were shelled frequently by long range shelling, leading to additional casualties and disruptions. After some rest and practice at bombing (throwing grenades) the battalion received orders on the 11th for taking over trenches for a proposed attack on the 13th of October at 2:00 pm. The situation for the attack is shown in the following diagram of the whole area, indicating the placement of the 12th Division, containing the 35th Brigade which contained the 7 Norfolks.
Here is a transcription of the diary record on the attack:
Maps of the Attack Area
Photographs taken 24 April 2015
The after action report listed above indicates that 66 O.R.s (other ranks, not officers) were killed and 160 were missing at the end of the attack. The Commonwealth War Graves listings indicate that the Norfolk Regiment had 165 fatalities that day. Of these 165 only 6 have a known grave; all others are commemorated on memorial panels, almost all of them at the Dud Corner Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Registry lists 165 soldiers of the Norfolk Regiment as having been killed that day. All but one of these are in unknown graves and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery nearby. It is likely that many of those whose bodies were buried were placed at what is now know as St. Mary's A.D.S. (Advanced Dressing Station) Cemetery located about 500 meters west of the battlefield on which they fell. There are almost 2,000 soldiers buried here, over two thirds of whom are unknown. It is likely that Ernest Hart's grave would be here if he was in fact buried. Of the graves of the unknown I could only find four who were identified as being from the Norfolk Regiment.
You will have noticed that we have almost no record of Ernest at a personal level during his stay in France. Yet, remarkably, we do have two eye-witness accounts of his death (possibly from the same writer).
As recorded further below on the account of his childhood and pre-military life, Ernest was raised as a member of St. Michael's parish in Maidstone and later attended St. Mark's College in London.
Shortly after his death the St. Michael's parish for November 1915 newspaper stated that news had arrived in October:
"that Ernest Hart, one of our most promising young men, and who used to be a member of our Milton Street [mission church] Choir, has been killed in action at the front. One of his companions writes":-
Ernest was also an 'old boy' of St. Marks College in London. This college had an annual yearbook to which graduates, staff and others would contribute information and articles. In the 1915 edition it was reported that "Ernest Hart listed as a corporal serving with the 7th Norfolks".
During WWI the editions of this became less scheduled and they tended to occur when they did.
In the May issue of 1916 it
is said that they deeply regret the deaths in active
service of a number of named students. Among those listed
is Ernest Hart. The piece continued that "The Committee
wishes to place on record its deep sympathy with the
relatives and friends of those who have fallen.."
Further inside this edition
on p. 9 the following was written with specific reference
to Ernest Hart :
In reading this we might
conclude that Ernest reached the German trenches. Since
the forces withdrew from these trenches later in the
battle it may be that this is the reason that his body
(which would have been left behind) was not interred in a
marked grave leading to his name being recorded on a
Where Ernest was Killed
So in reviewing all this
information we find that Ernest Hart, a sergeant in the
7th Bn. Norfolk Reg't was killed at about 2:00 pm on the
afternoon of 13 October 1915. He was leading his men, as a
platoon commander, 'over the top' to attack the German
lines, almost certainly with C company, when he was shot
and killed. The place of death can also be fairly
accurately located, within a hundred feet or so by
examining the operational maps as well as various other
battalion, brigade and divisional maps of the battle.
The Childhood and Pre-military Life of Ernest HartErnest was born on 16 February 1891 likely at 51 Milton Street. He was the younger son of Stephen and Mary (Mobbs) Hart who were married in the fourth quarter of 1886. His older brother was Albert born about 21 months before on April 17, 1889. Stephen and Mary were childhood neighbours who had grown up a few blocks away at 15 and 16 Prospect Street, so the family was well established in the neighbourhood.
We see the family listed in the 1891 census:
and again in the 1901 census, now living at 61 Milton:
The children were likely christened at St.Michael's church which was close by and it was at St. Michael's school that the two boys were educated.
Ernest went on to become a 'PT' (I believe that is a pupil teacher) at Maidstone Grammer School, while, a couple of years earlier, Albert had the same training at St. Michael's School. From there they both went to London to study as teachers at St. Mark's College. This much we know from the census of 1911 which shows Ernest as a student at the college, as well as from research done by Ms. Nicola Chaffe of the Marjon College library in Plymouth, Devon (Marjon is the successor to St. Mark's and St. John's college which was an amalgamation of the two colleges). We know little of the childhood of Ernest and Albert and are much indebted to Ms. Chaffe for the information that follows.
In early family life, Ernest and Albert grew up surrounded by many cousins as their father, Stephen, was one of at least five children as was their mother, Mary. Stephen was a compositor which meant that he was literate (literacy was just generally occurring in Britain at that time) and that level of education was obviously a significant factor as it related to the raising of his children. That focus on education has continued through the generations of Stephen and Mary's descendents.
As a child it is evident that Ernest "was an active church member, not just a resident of the parish. The mission church in Milton Street, no longer in existence, was a building used for outreach to the less affluent and less churchy streets of the parish - it would have had its own Sunday school, to which Ernest very possibly went as a boy, and, as we can see, its own choir in which he sang, probably accompanied by a harmonium rather than a pipe organ. The grander and more well-to-do parishioners of course worshipped at the main church but some of them would have taken a kindly interest in the youngsters at Milton Street and probably volunteered to teach the Sunday School and so on. Evidently Ernest impressed them and/or the clergy as a bright young man who was going to do well."
Maidstone Grammar School
Ernest attended Maidstone Grammar School from September
1905 through July 1909. The image below is from the list
of students of the time, indicating the start and end
dates of their attendance. Interestingly, for Ernest we
find that the date of leaving is entered as July of 1907
(see below of more comments on this entry, which is
In addition to this student list, Ernest is mentioned
twice in the school paper, "The Old Maidstonian":
The following photograph shows form Vb in 1909, the year that Ernest left the school.
The students in the photograph are not identified so we cannot be sure that Ernest is in this photograph, but it is likely he is. Comparing this photograph with the one we do know is him (shown above) it seems likely that in this photograph Ernest is third from the left in the back row. At this time Ernest was about 18 years old.
St. Mark's CollegeIn 1909, after having been a pupil teacher at Maidstone Grammer School, Ernest applied and was accepted as a teacher trainee at St. Mark's College, Chelsea on Kings Road in London. His application included some level of support from A. Adams, the headmaster at St. Michael's and from the Rev. J.H. Best, rector of St. Michael's parish as these names appear on his student record at the college, and they would likely have given letters of reference. Ernest's student record is not very extensive being only two pages long with little personal information included. Sadly, the entries for height, weight are blank. While we can see the various subjects that Ernest took in the program it is not clear as to what level is attained. It is also not exactly clear what the rating system was -- we can be sure it was not nearly as inflated as is now the norm!
At the time that Ernest was a student, all students (unless exempted for some special reason) were members of the territorial army corps. It is highly likely that Ernest was a member of the corps and this may be part of the reason he advanced very quickly from private on enlistment in the summer of 1914 to serjeant by the time of his death in October 1915.
The pages from his entry are shown below:
The penultimate entry on the record is that he was given an appointment, on leaving in 1911, at St. Paul's Boy's School on Burdett Rd., Mile End, East London. His death is noted in the final entry.
We are fortunate to have a number of photographs from the time period that Ernest and his brother were students at St. Mark's. They give some idea of the environment and lifestyle of that time.
Some Photographs of St.Marks
CreditsA number of different sources have contributed to this record of Ernest Hart.
 The information in this section was provided in private correspondence by Lois Birrell, a volunteer archivist at Maidstone Grammar School
 Private correspondence from Mr. M. Tomkins, headmaster Maidstone Grammar School
 Private communication from Fr. P. Rowe of St. Michael's church
©Kenneth Scott and others 2010,2011, 2012, 2013, 2014,
email: ken at kenscott.com