Ernest Crane

Name Ernest Crane
Corps Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Rank Private
Service No. 27546
Date/Place of entry  
Date of death 4 March 1917 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave Pier and Face 11A/11D Thiepval Memorial

Ernest Crane was born in Wavertree, Liverpool in the summer of 1897, younger son of William Crane and his wife Elisabeth. William was born in 1863 on Town Street (later called Corby Road) in Cottingham, the eighth of the eleven children of farm labourer Henry Crane and his wife Mary nee Sculthorpe.

The name Crane first appeared in the parish registers in the middle of the eighteenth century. The family grew considerably in the nineteenth century and Henry’s name was to become notorious. In 1875, while living apart from his family, he killed the young son of a neighbour and was subsequently declared criminally insane. He was committed to Broadmoor Asylum where he died in 1885 (A detailed account is available at It must have been a hugely traumatic experience for his children; William was just twelve at the time.

William left the village for Liverpool in 1891, marrying there in the following year. He was a lamplighter with Liverpool Corporation in 1901 by which time his wife had died (probably in 1900), leaving him to bring up George aged five and Ernest aged three. In 1911 William was back to Cottingham and living on Rockingham Road with his two sons. He was a farm worker.

Ernest was in the Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion at the time of his death. His military record has not survived so we do not know when and where he joined up. His elder brother George enlisted on 28 October 1915 into the Leicestershire Regiment. Maybe Ernest joined up around the same time. He’d have been too young to join as a regular before the summer of 1915 as the minimum recruitment age at the outbreak of the war was eighteen (though many under age boys volunteered and were accepted). Alfred William Inchley from Rockingham, six years his senior, was also a private in the 2nd  Battalion.

The 2nd was part of the 24th Brigade in the 8th Division. In 1915 it had been involved in the Battles of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers and was then in and out of the trenches all summer. The next major engagement was the Battle of Loos in late September. The 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment fought there while the 2nd took part in a diversionary action to the north, at Bois Grenier. For the remainder of October the men of the 2nd were in the trenches before transferring with the rest of the 24th to the 23rd Division on 18 October. The Brigade returned to 8th Division, 4th Army on 15 July 1916 and was active in the First Battle of Albert on the Somme. Ernest’s older brother George died there on 30 July.

The 8th Division’s next major action was in Germany’s Retreat from the Somme battlefields to the Hindenberg Line in the spring of 1917. During their withdrawal the German armies destroyed everything on the ground they’d abandoned including entire villages. Wells were poisoned, craters blown in roads, and booby traps laid. The Allies followed cautiously towards the strategically well placed Hindenberg Line.

Deep mud and rain had halted plans for a February attack but on 4 March the 8th Division detailed 24 and 25 brigades to attack the German positions on the hogsback overlooking Bouchavesnes. The 2nd Battalion Northamptonshires and 1st Worcestershires were placed in the muddy front line, where chewing gum was issued to them to stop coughing during the preliminary waiting.  The assault began at 5.15am and continued for the Northamptonshires until they were relieved at 3am the following morning. The Regiment had two hundred and forty two casualties, one of whom was Ernest Crane.

His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, one of 72,000 men who died on the Somme before 20th March 1918 and have no known grave.(over ninety per cent of the men commemorated died between July and November 1916). The village of Thiepval lies between Bapaume and Albert.

Ernest’s father William, who had no other children alive, was living alone on Rockingham Road in the 1939 census. He died aged ninety in 1953.

Ernest was related to over thirty servicemen descended from the Crane families of Cottingham. Their surnames were Crane, Coles, Wade, Martin, Sculthorpe, Blount, Groocock, Timson, Crook, Allett and Scott.