Rifleman 2840 Ernest Whitehouse

Died of Wounds on Friday, 30th July 1915, age 21.
Commemorated on Panel 51 and 53 of Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

9th Bn., King's Royal Rifle Corps. 41st Brigade of 14th Division.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 21st May 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/913985/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Ernest Whitehouse registered in either March or September quarter 1894 in Dudley (2 Ernest Whitehoues registered).

Marriage of Susan Whitehouse and James Perkins registered in March quarter 1897 in Birmingham.

1901 Census
2 The Elms, Highgate Street, Deritend, Birmingham.
James Perkins (43, Blacksmith, born Birmingham), his wife Susan (35, born Tipton), his 3 children: George (18, Iron Plate Worker, born Birmingham), Albert (12, born Birmingham), and Joseph (10, born Birmingham), and his 3 step-children: Job Whitehouse (16, Brass Polisher, born Tipton), Hannah Whitehouse (12, born Tipton), and Ernest Whitehouse (7, born Tipton).

1911 Census
27 Court, 14 House, Gooch Street, Birmingham.
Susan Perkins (Widow, 44, born Tipton), two of her children: Hannah Whitehouse (22, Japanner of Cycle Lamps, born Tipton), and Ernest Whitehouse (17, Brass Polisher, born Tipton), and one of her step-children: Joseph Perkins (19, Labourer, born Birmingham).

Personal Data

After Ernest's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/2/7d (7 pounds, 2 shillings and 7 pence); this was paid to his sole legatee, Hannah Goldsby, in May 1920. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Hannah Goldsby in May 1920. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Ernest had enlisted in the previous 12 months.
Hannah Goldsby was Ernest's sister, her marriage to Albert H. Goldsby was registered June quarter 1911 in Birmingham.

Action resulting in his death

The 9th King's Royal Rifle Brigade (KRRC) was in 42nd Brigade of 14th (Light) Division, one of the six initial Kitchener Divisions authorised in August 1914. Training started in September at Woking moving to Aldershot where they received their equipment and completed their training under terrible conditions and most of the time was spent in tents in winter rain and floods.

Training completed, the Division embarked at Folkestone on the 21st May 1915 landing at Boulogne. They moved by train to Cassel, marching to Volkerinckhove and Bailleul where they were employed on work in the local defences. In June 1915 they moved into Belgium, taking over the Hooge Sector on the 23rd July.

At 7pm on 19th July 1915, a large mine was exploded by 175th Tunnelling Company R.E., under a German strongpoint at Hooge. The spoil from the detonation threw up a lip 15 feet high, around a crater 20 feet deep and 120 feet wide. After the firing, it was immediately occupied by two Companies of the 4th Middlesex. British artillery quelled all signs of German attempts to recover the crater.

German retaliation came on 30th July 1915. At 3.15am, the ruins of the Stables were blown up, and jets of flame shot across from the German trenches. This was the first time that the Germans had used liquid fire flamethrowers against the British. Immediately a deluge of fire of all kinds fell on the 41st Brigade who held the crater, and on all support positions back to Zouave Wood and Sanctuary Wood. The Germans achieved complete surprise, but although the British front lines were evacuated, they did not follow beyond them. There was intensive hand-to-hand fighting in some trenches; eventually virtually all of the positions held by the Brigade were lost.

The 42nd Brigade was in support on the left in Zouave Wood, and were not attacked. Orders were issued for a counter-attack by the 41st and 42nd Brigades at 2.45pm after a feeble 45-minute bombardment.

The 9th KRRC attacked alongside the Menin Road, but nothing was achieved with no one getting closer than 150 yards to the new German positions. After half an hour the attack was called off. During the night, another German flamethrower attack was repulsed, but further efforts by the 14th Division on the 31st came to nothing against heavy German shellfire. A further British attack on the 9th August reclaimed the area lost during this German attack.

97 men and 8 officers of the 9th KRRC were killed during the 30th and 31st July, amongst them Tipton men Ernest Whitehouse and Joseph Heath. Neither Ernest nor Joseph have a known grave, and both are commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

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