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 one of the several children of Henry and Mary Crane of Cottingham (more information on the Crane family at www.cottinghamhistory.co.uk or www.craxford-family.co.uk) and left the village for Liverpool in 1891, marrying there in the following year.

He was employed as a lamplighter for Liverpool Corporation in 1901 by which time his wife had died, leaving Ernest and his older brother George. William had come back to Cottingham by 1911 and was living on Rockingham Road with his two sons. He was a farmworker and Ernest still at school.

Ernest’s military record has not survived so we do not know when and where he joined up. The 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment was regular army battalion but Ernest should have been too young to join as a regular; the minimum recruitment age before 1914 was eighteen. Alfred William Inchley from Rockingham, six years his senior, was also a private in the 2nd. Alfred enlisted in December 1914 at Kettering. Possibly Ernest lied about his age and did likewise.

The 2nd Battalion 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 of the war was the Battle of Loos that autumn. 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 was in the Leicestershire Regiment and died here on 30 July.

The 8th Division’s next major action was in Germany’s Retreat from the Somme battlefields to the Hindenberg Line in March 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 an attack on 27th February. A week later, on 4 March  the 8th Division detailed 24 and 25 brigades to attack the German positions on the hogs back 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 day. The Regiment had 242 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. Of these, over ninety per cent are from July – November 1916. The village of Thiepval is between Bapaume and Albert.

Ernest was survived by his father William who died aged ninety in 1953. A marriage took place between a man named Ernest Crane and Agnes Tarry in the Brixworth district early in 1917 but there’s no proof yet it was the man born in Cottingham.