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Pte Ernest Nuttall was killed in action in the trench raid of 10th January 1917 at Wieltje to the north east of Ypres, he was one of the four soldiers killed who were brought back to the British lines, he now lies in grave V.E.1 of Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Ypres.

In the 1891 census the Nuttall family lived at 58 Bull Lane, Great Lever Bolton. The father was James 29 a coal miner born in Farnworth and his wife Martha Alice (nee Gradwell b.1863 in Chorley) they had married in Bolton on the 26th May 1888 at St Mark’s parish church. They had two sons John William aged 2 years and Alfred 6 months. By the time of the next census they had moved home and now lived at 3 Whittaker Street, just off Bull Lane the father had moved out of the pit and was earning a living as an Iron driller the mother was ‘living on her own means’. John William was now an 11 year old with younger brother Ernest 8 years and a sister Nancy aged 6, Alfred is not recorded.

By 1911 the family were still at Whittaker Street, a four roomed house commonly referred to as a ‘two up two down’ being two rooms downstairs, usually a living room and a kitchen and two upstairs bedrooms. James the father is now 48 years old and working as a foundry labourer and textile machine maker the mother Martha Alice is 47 with John William working in the cotton mill as a piecer, whose job it was to mend broken threads in the spinning process, Earnest (sic) is also an 18 year old piecer at Park Mills and a regular attender at local St Bartholomew’s church, the 16 year old Nancy is listed as cotton roving frame doffer, her role was to unload the full bobbins of cotton from the spinning machine.

Ernest enlisted into the L.N.L. regiment on 14th October 1914 aged 22 years 8 days, and was 5’6 ½” in height.

He was given the army number 2819 and from 14th October 1914 – 17th June 1915 he was on home service with the 2/5th battalion, then on 18th June moved to the 42 Provisional Batt for six months until 30th December 1915 when he joined the 3/5th battalion.

He embarked for France at Southampton on 10th March 1916 joining his regiment at Rouen. On the 26th of the month he was sent to the front and five days later on 31st March he was with his battalion and posted to ‘C’ Co. now in the field.

On the 1st July 1916 at the opening of the battle of the Somme the battalion had not been engaged, they were in the trenches at Bellacourt and had mainly been employed on working parties. They were however to take part in the action at Guillemont 8th – 9th August 1916 where they had 131 killed, wounded and missing. They had also suffered many casualties throughout September from enemy fire whilst being used for salvage work and as burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle at that place.

With the change to the new army numbering system in 1917 his army number became 240951.

He was one of 140 men who on the 9th January 1917 marched to spare land near to Ypres prison and practiced their actions that would be put into effect the next day, watched by the Divisional Commander who afterwards expressed his approval of their display. The area today is close by the site of the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

On the 10th January 1917 the men had divided into two groups, left and right parties, both had Bangalore torpedoes to cut any obstructing enemy wire. The left party under the command of Lt Robert Keith Makant MC would assemble at 15.00hrs at Lone Farm and the right party under 2nd Lt John Cecil Frankland at Prowse Farm. They moved onto to their jump off point a ditch running S.E from Argyle Farm and at 17.15hrs they left their trenches and approached the enemy defences. The right party was immediately met by a heavy machine gun fire and artillery a single shell accounted for both Bangalore parties of this group as they moved together and were all casualties.

2nd Lt Frankland had been killed and the reserve officer 2nd Lt Charles Warburton Whitaker who had also been wounded gave the order to retire as the wire they encountered had not been cut and they no longer had the means to destroy it. The left party gained their objective and was successful in their attempts in the enemy trenches though the raid had been costly.

Of the officers 1 had been killed and 2 wounded, of the other ranks 7 had been killed and 49 wounded with 4 missing believed dead, of the wounded some would later die of their wounds.

A short piece on his death appeared in the Bolton Chronicle of 9th February 1917.

For his WWI service he was awarded the British war and victory medals, his British war medal receipt was signed for by his father on 2nd February 1921 followed on 1st November by the victory medal also. The medal pair is still extant and recently appeared for sale on a dealers list together with those issued to his brother Pte 33658 J.W.Nuttall Royal Lancaster Regt

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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