Private 16485 Ernest Dudley

Killed in Action on Friday, 30th November 1917, age unknown.
Commemorated on Panel 6 of Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, Nord, France.

4th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 88th Brigade of 29th Division.

Born: Willenhall, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 17th February 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1752622/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Ernest William Dudley registered March quarter 1879 in Wolverhampton.

1901 Census
73 Flood Street, Dudley, Worcestershire.
William Dudley (53, Gate Hinge Forger, born Willenhall), his wife Mary (52, born Dudley), and their 6 children: Arthur George (26, Steelworks Roller, born Willenhall), John Enoch (24, Steelworks Bolter-Down, born Willenhall), Ernest William (22, Brass Caster, born Willenhall), David Henry (26, Brass Polisher, born Willenhall), Rachel (13, born Tipton), and Esther Ann (11, born Dudley).

1911 Census
The Dudley family were living at 210 Birmingham New Road, Burnt Tree, Tipton, but Ernest was not amongst them. No trace can be found of Ernest except that the 1910 USA Census shows Ernest WIlliam Dudley, born 1879 in England, living in King County, Washington. No other Ernest William Dudley was registered in 1879 in England, so this is possibly him living in or near Seattle on the East Coast of the USA.

Personal Data

After Ernest's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £11/10/3d (11 pounds, 10 shillings and 3 pence); this was paid to his father, WIlliam, in November 1918. His War Gratuity was £14/10/0d (14 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to his father in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Ernest had enlisted in September 1914.

Action resulting in his death

As the Battle of Cambrai started on 20th November 1917, the 4th Worcesters were in the second wave, to advance after the 20th Division had taken the German first and second lines of trenches. The morning had gone well, and the Worcesters were called into action at 10.30am with the objective of the German Reserve trenches beyond the canal at Masnieres.

Their advance went well, and the Worcesters crossed the lock at Masnieres, but famously a tank named ‘Flying Fox’ tried to cross the bridge causing it to collapse, and the tank to fall. Despite this setback, the Worcesters held on throughout the day and overnight joined the 2nd Hampshires in finally capturing Masnieres.

On the 23rd November, the Worcesters were relieved and rested in the cellars of the ruined village of Marcoing. They were still quartered there, in reserve, over the night of 29th/30th November. On the morning of the 30th, the Germans launched a major attack intending to encircle the salient which the British success at Cambrai had created. The Worcesters, at Marcoing were at the southern side of the salient, Bourlon Wood being the northern side.

As the troops in Marcoing moved out in readiness to go into action, shells started to fall, and in places the Germans were only 200 yards away. Action at the southern end of Marcoing was confused, but a unit from inter-mixed British battalions was formed and a counter attack began.

By 11.00am this unit came into action and drove the Germans back into the Vacqurie valley. On the crest line a halt was called, and a defensive line was dug. Despite German aeroplanes firing on the line, and German machine guns from across the valley firing, the troops held firm and fighting died down.

During the 30th November, the 4th Worcesters had 26 Other Ranks killed in action. Amongst these was Ernest Dudley, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Dudley Chronicle, 19th January 1918
Missing: Pte. E. Dudley, 16485, Worcesters; Acting Corpl. A. Smith, 15383, South Staffords; Pte. J. Taylor, 241471, Somerset Light Infantry, and J. Lovell, 203717, Somerset Light Infantry, all of Tipton are reported missing.
Editor: Of the above 4 men, only Lovell was to survive the war.