ERNEST JEFFERY (1886-1916)

Ernest Jeffery is featured in the North Hill Local History Group’s publication “The Fallen of North Hill Parish”. If you have any knowledge, information, pictures or artefacts which would be useful in telling his story, please contact us.

In 1886 Ernest Jeffery was born in Blader Cottage, between Trewithey and Waycross. He was one of ten children born to Robert and Martha Jeffrey who lived in the cottage for about 50 years. Martha died in 1919 and Robert in 1932. Both are buried in St Torney’s churchyard along with three of their daughters.

On 25th April 1913 Ernest (27) and his younger brother Charley (25) emigrated on SS Otway from London to Melbourne in Australia to start a new life.

Ernest enlisted at Claremont, Tasmania on 27th September 1915. His war service record can be seen on The National Archives of Australia website. This shows his enlistment date as 22nd September 1915 and not as the 27th as indicated in “The Fallen of North Hill Parish”. He was transferred to the 52nd Battalion in April 1916 and posted to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), France. He disembarked at Marseilles on 12th June 1916.

A report of 3rd/4th September 1916 records 30th Brigade’s bitterly contested assault on Mouquet Farm, a strongpoint in the German lines near Pozières on the Somme battlefield. Ernest was wounded and posted as missing in action in that report.

Mouquet Farm was the site of nine separate attacks by three Australian divisions between 8th August and 3rd September 1916. The farm stood in a dominating position on a ridge that extended north-west from the ruined, and much fought over, village of Pozières. Although the farm buildings themselves were destroyed, strong stone cellars remained below ground and these were incorporated into the German defences. Shown are aerial photographs of Mouquet Farm before and after it was reduced to rubble by shellfire.

The attacks mounted against Mouquet Farm cost the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions over 11,000 casualties, and not one succeeded in capturing and holding it. The painful but inexorable British advance eventually bypassed Mouquet Farm leaving it as an isolated German outpost. It eventually fell on 27th September 1916. Ernest died of his wounds as a prisoner of war on 8th September and was buried at ‘Feldlazarette Velu’ a German combat hospital cemetery behind the lines. The German medical unit recorded his death as due to gunshot wounds to the lung.

Ernest Jeffery died from wounds in a German Field Hospital near Velu in France, whilst he was a prisoner of war. This image is a German postcard from World War One showing the treatment of the wounded in a field hospital near the front line. There are large collections of these wartime postcards which German troops sent back home to show how well the war was progressing. The reality of a field hospital was probably very different from the civilized scene shown in this postcard.

Ernest’s death was reported on standard army form B2090A, shown below.


The official notification of his death from Germany is shown here:

Ernest’s sister, Mrs Blanche Laves of Liskeard, wrote this letter to the Red Cross asking if they could give any information as to his whereabouts.

In early 1917, after the withdrawal of the German Army to the Hindenburg Line, the area of the Somme battlefields was reclaimed by the BEF. The British dead interred in German cemeteries were exhumed and where possible identified. Those at Velu, including Ernest, were reinterred at the Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extension, 8 km east of Bapaume.

Pozières has a special significance in Australian military history. In the words of Australian official military historian Charles Bean, the Pozières ridge is "more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on Earth".

Ernest emigrated with his brother Charley in 1913 and they settled in Tasmania spending some time there in the town of Derby. Ernest had no family but Charley has descendants still living in Australia.


The images at the top of the page show the Australian flag and an army recruitment poster from WW1.