Fellow local historian, Cynthia Budd, has meticulously researched the men listed on the Great War Memorials throughout the Shellrock Benefice (Great Ellingham, Little Ellingham, Rockland All Saints, Rockland St Peter and Shropham with Snetterton).
She has kindly allowed me to reproduce her tributes to the Great Ellingham men, on the Great Ellingham One-Place Study website.
Great War memorial tablet on the west wall of the Church of St James, Great Ellingham
The following is Cynthia’s piece commemorating Private 203167, Ernest Edward Saunders, 11th Battalion Essex Regiment:
Ernest was born in Besthorpe 19 September 1892. His parents were Herbert Thomas [Saunders] and Clara nèe Goddard. In 1911 they had been married for twenty-four years, had eight children, one had died. They lived in Besthorpe in 1901. In 1911 their address was Bow Street, Great Ellingham. At that time Ernest was away from home at Moat Farm, Great Hockham, working as a labourer for his uncle Thomas Barham. He is recorded as having enlisted in Cambridge, residence Benwick, Cambridgeshire, the date is not shown. Initially he served with the Cambridge Regiment, later the 11th Battalion, Essex Regiment. He did not serve in a Theatre of War before 1916. Private Saunders was one of eighteen men of the 11th Essex to lose their lives 28 May 1918. The Deanery Magazine reports that he was killed 'by a machine gun'. The Commonwealth War Grave records show that he was originally buried close to where he fell. In September 1919 his grave was moved to Vormezeele Enclosure No.3, four kilometres south west of Ypres. This record notes that he was serving with 2nd Platoon, 'A' Company when he died. The 11th Essex had been in trenches close to Ypres throughout May 1918. On 24th May they went into Divisional Reserve and spent two days assisting the Royal Engineers and Pioneers to improve trenches and accommodation. During this time they were on the receiving end of enemy gas shells, 'D' Company in particular had several casualties. Their War Diary says on the evening of 26th May 1918; "The Battalion received orders to move forward to carry out a counter attack in conjunction with the French, the enemy having attacked & captured part of our Front Line in the DICKEBUSCH LAKE area' (an area held by the French). The 27th May was spent moving up, reconnoitring and liaising with the French or an attack on the following day, they were again subjected to shelling. Zero was to be at 4am. 'A', 'B' and 'C' Companies would lead, 'D' Company was in reserve due to losses sustained in the previous days. The War Diary contains an eight-page report of the operation, in some places giving an almost hour-by-hour account. There is very little information about 'A' Company. Their orders were to go through ENGLISH WOOD on the left of 'B' Company who were to be in close touch with the French. All Companies were in position by 2.50am 'B' Company reported 'no French on our right as yet'. At 3.50am a standing barrage commenced, which changed to a creeping barrage at 4am and the men went forward. The reports which got through to Headquarters show that 'C' Company had reached their objective by 5.30am with little resistance, they had light casualties and the Germans had fled. Other reports mention confusion, units losing direction, heavy enemy machine gun fire and sniping as the country was very open. A patrol of one Officer and two runners went out at 6.30am to assess the situation. The first group they found were in a 'trench held by Lieutenants Buckley & Leake, 11th Essex, and about 20 stragglers from various Companies. There were also about 50 French ..... mixed up with our men'. Proceeding south the patrol found trenches 'strongly held by 'A', 'B' & elements of 'D' Company. There are practically no French anywhere on my right and the advance there does not seem ever to have started'. A report timed at 10.05am reads 'casualties so far 5 Officers & about 4 Other Ranks but there are more to come in.' Another report I find particularly harrowing was sent by Lieutenant Buckley it says: 'The men in my post have all become casualties. May I return to Headquarters, I am sick with shock.' At this point I decided to try and find some further information about Lieutenants Buckley and Leake. I found their Medal Index cards which revealed that they had only been on the Western Front since 22 April 1918 and were second lieutenants. I therefore assumed them to be young, newly commissioned officers. In fact, 2nd/Lt. Buckley was 43. He survived his War Service and became County Surveyor for Essex. 2nd/Lt. Leake was aged about 34 and, although a casualty on 28th May 1918, he also survived the War. He was an Insurance Actuary. Despite the heavy casualties, the operation on 28th May was deemed to have been a success and congratulations were sent from the Brigade Commander and the French. Private Saunders was aged 26 and was awarded the Victory and British War Medals. The gravestone inscription chosen by his family reads: 'EVER REMEMBERED BY ALL AT HOME'. He was commemorated at a memorial service in St James' 29 December 1918, along with three more Great Ellingham men.
With many thanks to Cynthia Budd and Chris Clarke.
Cynthia’s sources. Please note that the sources include research carried out in relation to all the ‘fallen’ of the Great War throughout the Shellrock Benefice. Accordingly, not all the sources will be applicable to Great Ellingham :
Ancestry UK: Birth, Marriage, Death and Parish Records. Census Records and Electoral Rolls. Probate Records.Military Records; Army/Navy Service Records. UK Soldiers Died in the Great War Roll. Medal Index Cards. Medal Award Rolls. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects. War Diaries. Canadian Military Records.
Archant Archives, Norwich. Also Thetford Library; The Thetford & Watton Times.
Australian War Records Websites: https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
FindMyPast; Military Service Records. Electoral Rolls. British Newspaper Archive. The 1939 Register.
The General Record Office.
The History of the Norfolk Regiment 1914-1918 F Loraine Peter OBE
The London GazetteThe National Archives
The Norfolk Heritage Centre, The Forum, Norwich. Breckles and District Deanery Magazines. Norwich Mercury (Microfiche)
The Norfolk Record Office.
Norwich Cathedral Library; 1919 Diocesan Roll of Honour.
Picture Norfolk https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/libraries/picture-norfolk
The Red Cross https://grandguerre.icrc.org
Various Regimental Websites.