Ernest McKay, Lt. 1547, 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 19th September 1915 in Gallipoli, aged 21
Ernest McKay was baptised on 6th December 1893 at St Mary’s Church, Chester, the fifth son of Sergeant Major Robert Hope McKay (then a Warrant Officer) and Mary Ann McKay of Nicholas Street, Chester.
The family moved to Macclesfield when Robert became Quartermaster for the Militia in 1894, living in Crompton Road and the Barracks.
In 1901, seven year old Ernest was living at Cumberland Street with his mother and siblings Lily (24), Frederick Hope (17), who was employed as a Railway Clerk, Charles (12), Herbert (11), Arthur Alexander (6) and Elsie Muriel (4). Ernest’s father Robert died in September 1901 as a result of disease contracted whilst serving in South Africa, and was buried in Macclesfield Cemetery (grave ref. D3952). Ten years later, Ernest’s widowed mother was living with her family in Hobson Street, Macclesfield. Frederick was a Sergeant, on leave from the army, and Ernest was employed as a trainee telegraphist at the Post Office (sending and receiving telegrams). The family later moved to 41 Hollins Road, Macclesfield.
Ernest was educated at Christ Church School, and went on to Macclesfield Grammar School in 1907, leaving school in 1910.
Ernest joined the 7th Cheshire (Territorial) Regiment as a private on 13th January 1913, and was promoted to Lance-Corporal in May 1914. He received the rank of Corporal in September 1914 and obtained his commission on 3rd March 1915.
Following a period of training in various locations, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August.
On the evening of 8th August, the Battalion arrived off the coast of Gallipoli and the following day landed at “C” Beach, Suvla Bay. Having landed, they came under shell fire at about 8.30am and so moved north along the edge of the bay; they then received orders to attack in the direction of a dip in the hills behind Anafarta Saghir.
At 8am on 10th August the Battalion was ordered to attack Hill 70. This was unsuccessful and the Battalion suffered severe losses. A second unsuccesssful attack took place at 5pm.
The following day at 2.30pm the Brigade moved north, but the 7th Cheshires and 4th Welsh Regiments on the left were under attack so had to pull back. The 7th Cheshires remained in this position in trenches for several days, and on 8th September moved to a rest camp.
The Regiment remained in the rest camp until 12th September, and then moved to reserve until 16th September, when they relieved the 4th Cheshire and 5th Welsh Regiments in the Front Line. Ernest was killed by a sniper while a wiring party was at work under cover of darkness. According to the 7th Cheshire Regiment war diary, he died on 16th September, but all other sources give the date of death as 19th September.
Ernest’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 1st October 1915 and the Macclesfield Courier of 2nd October 1915:
The sad tidings of his death was received by telegram on Sunday night, Mrs McKay being called out of the Parish Church … to receive the following telegram… “Regret to inform you that Second Lieutenant Ernest McKay, of the Seventh Cheshires, was killed in action on the 19th September. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.”
Lt. Ernest McKay is buried in grave ref. II. G. 23 in Azmak Cemetery, Sulva, Turkey. His mother asked for a cross and the inscription “For Ever with the Lord“ to be added to his memorial.
Brother of Herbert McKay, 2nd Cheshire Regt, who died of wounds in May 1915 in France; Charles, 16th Cheshire Regt, who died of wounds in May 1917 in France; Arthur, 7th Cheshire Regt, who survived this war but was killed in Burma during World War Two; and Fred, who survived the war and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming QMS for the 7th Cheshire Regiment in Macclesfield.
Another brother, Walter, died of Enteric Fever in South Africa during the Boer War.
Local historian David Hill and the King’s School, Macclesfield, have produced a 22 page illustrated A5 booklet, “The Fighting McKays of Macclesfield”, telling the story of the McKay family. For more information, please see this page of the website.