Lance Corporal Ernest George Perkins 22120 11th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
who died on 29 April 1918
Ernest George Perkins, born in 1889, was the son of James Perkins a woolen glove knitter and his wife Sarah Jane (nee Bowles) a sock machinist. In 1891 he was living with his parents and two older brothers at 27 Oadby Street (now Regent Street). Ernest’s parents had married in 1879 and originally moved to Bowles Yard, Oadby where Sarah’s father had a small knitting factory. Their first child Lilian Maria died in 1884 aged four but the couple went on to have three boys, Hubert James (1884), Edmund (1888) and Ernest George (1890) and second daughter, Lilian Anne born in 1892.
Regent Street, formerly Oadby Street
Ernest’s mother, Sarah Jane died in 1895 and James Perkins married his second wife Mary Elizabeth North in 1904. She is recorded on the 1901 census as living with James and three of the children as a ‘servant’ at Beaumont Street. Ernest lived four doors away with his aunt and uncle, Anne and John Perkins. He later moved with them to Chapel Street and worked as a tacker in the shoe idustry.
Cottages on Chapel Street, Oadby shortly before demolition
When Ernest enlisted on 23 October 1915 he gave his father’s address, 6 Beaumont Street as his residence. He was 26 years and 4 months old and described as 5’6” tall and weighing 119lbs. He gave his occupation as shoehand. Ernest was posted to the 11th Battalion (Pioneers)Leicestershire Regiment and, after basic training, he embarked for France on 25 March 1916. The Pioneers worked to support the 110th Leicester Brigade which included the four Service Battalions. The 11th Leicesters built roads and bridges, dug trenches and replaced barbed wire defences.
Extract from the Oadby Soldiers and Sailors book held at the Leicestershire Record Office, showing Ernest in A Company of the Midland Pioneers
On 19 July 1916 Ernest was appointed ‘unpaid’ Lance Corporal ‘in the field’. This was immediately after the Leicester Brigade’s first taste of battle at Bazentin Wood on 14 July 1916, so it could be assumed that Ernest’s leadership qualities were recognised as the promotion was formalised on 7 November 1916.
Ernest received two furlough’s during his active service. Ten days in July 1917 and from 21 March to 14 April 1918. When Ernest returned to duty on 14 April his unit was stationed at Brandhoek, between Poperinghe and Ypres. Between 5.30am and noon on 29 April their positions on the Vlamertinghe-Hallabait line were heavily shelled. Ernest received a ‘perforating abdominal wound’ and died at the 2nd Canadian casualty clearing station later that day.
2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Esquelbecq in 1918. With a 90ft x 90ft Red Cross laid out in the foreground to alert hostile aircraft to it’s medical status.
Ernest Perkins is Buried with Honour at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, France. He is also honoured on the Oadby War Memorial and the Oadby Council Senior School Memorial, now hanging in Launde Primary School.
Ernest’s headstone at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, France
Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, France
Oadby Council Senior School Memorial now hanging in Launde Primary School
Although Ernest’s service record mentions his promotion to Lance Corporal, he was recorded in the Oadby Council Minutes as Private.
Other Family Members
On 21 June 1919 James Perkins signed for his son’s personal effects which included a wallet, 2 cigarette cases and 2 watches. His British War Medal and Victory Medal were signed for by James on 20 November 1921.
Ernest’s older brothers also served during the war, Hubert in the Royal Airforce from 25 April 1918 and Edmund as a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Both men survived the war.