ERNEST FROST, Private 6953, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
Killed in action 14th November 1914 in Belgium, aged 35
Ernest Frost was born in 1880, in Macclesfield, the son of Ann and George Frost, a general labourer, and baptised at St Paul’s Church, Macclesfield, on 30th December 1880. In the 1881 census baby Ernest was living at 3 Bank Place with his parents and older siblings Charles Edward, David George, Elizabeth Jane, and James Thomas, but by 1891 the family had moved to 72 Bank Street. Ernest may have attended the Macclesfield Industrial School on Brook Street, as the school’s war memorial tablet includes the name ‘Ernest Frost’.
At the age of 17 years 7 months, Ernest enlisted for the Militia in Northampton on 3rd May 1898 (regimental number 5439). At that time, he stated that he lived in Kettering and was employed by Mr Bradshaw as a Brushmaker. He was described as being 5 feet 5⅝ inches tall, weighed 112 pounds, with a 31½ inch chest, fresh complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair. He had tattoos on both forearms and was missing part of his little finger on his left hand.
Ernest joined the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment (with regimental number 6013) on 2nd December 1899. His service papers survive, although damaged by fire. He served in the Boer War and was awarded the two South African campaign medals. In 1902 he transferred to the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment and served in India. He appears to have extended his original engagement, although it is not clear exactly when he left the Army because of the damage to his service papers. His service papers state that his brother David George Frost also served with the Cheshire Regiment.
The 1911 census records Ernest living with his widowed mother and sister at 72 Bank Street in Macclesfield and employed as a general labourer. He re-engaged with the Cheshire Regiment (Army Reserve) in September 1911. The re-engagement document states that Ernest was now 5 feet 7¼ inches tall, with a 37 inch chest, 31 inch waist, helmet size 21⅞ and took size 8 boots.
Ernest later gained employment as a postman, working firstly in Macclesfield before transferring to Tunstall in Staffordshire. Ernest married Hannah Elizabeth Dodd in September 1912 in the Parish Church at Silverdale, Staffordshire; the couple were recorded as living in Tunstall. A son, George William, was born in September 1913 in Burslem.
Ernest was mobilised on the outbreak of the war in August 1914, having a reserve liability, and posted back to the 1st Cheshire Regiment. The Battalion deployed from Londonderry to France in August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. It was decimated by German attacks in the retreat from Mons and the Regimental war history records that by the end of October “the Battalion practically ceased to exist”. According to his medal index card, Ernest arrived in France on 20th October, so he was probably one of the many men sent out from the Cheshire Regiment Depot to rebuild the Battalion’s strength. The Battalion moved soon after to reinforce defences against the Germans around Ypres. On 14th November, a cold, mist-sodden morning, massed German troops attacked on a nine mile front following intense artillery barrage. The war diary records the Battalion in defensive trenches near Nonne Bosschen wood:
“an order was given to retire from the advance line of trenches and take up another line about 150yds in rear, this was commenced at midday and by 4pm, the final line was held. The enemy were pressing on all the time and our casualties were rather heavy”.
The Battalion lost 32 officers and men killed, wounded or missing that day. Ernest was one of those men killed, and his body was never identified.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier of January 2nd, 1915:
Private Ernest Frost has no known grave and he is commemorated on Panel 19–22 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Ernest Frost, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Private Ernest Frost is also commemorated on the Tunstall War Memorial.