Light shed on mystery of ‘unknown warrior’ from Great Chesterford

PUBLISHED: 15:34 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 12 November 2018

Ernest Brown on Great Chesterford War Memorial was only  known as

Ernest Brown on Great Chesterford War Memorial was only known as "unknown warrior" until recently. Picture: JOHN FRENCH


The story of an ‘unknown warrior’ named on Great Chesterford’s war memorial has now been revealed after extensive research by the Chesterford Local History and Archaeology Society.

Little was known about Private Ernest Brown until research by historian Brian Linford revealed that he served in the 12th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and came from Witham in Essex.

Brian found a brief statement in the Cambridge Independent press, dated March 15, 1918, reporting that Ernest Brown, an assistant school master of Great Chesterford had been awarded the military medal for gallantry.

It was then possible to identify Ernest from the full list of soldiers who died in the war and it showed his place of residence as Great Chesterford and his date of death as November 9, 1918.

However, there were two remaining puzzles. Ernest was shown to be serving in 2/2nd Battalion, London Regiment, when he died and he had been buried in Berlin. At this stage, the researchers consulted experts in the Great War Forum who found evidence that Ernest’s transfer had occurred during the 1918 German spring offensive, where reinforcements were sent where most needed.

The London Regiment’s medal rolls show Ernest’s service ending on April 23, 1918, when, presumably, he was taken prisoner by German forces.

The Great War Forum explained how he came to be buried in Berlin - records show that Ernest died in Schneidemuhl prisoner of war camp near Posen, West Prussia, on the borders of Poland.

He was not recorded as “died of wounds”, so researchers assume he died of Spanish flu.

He was initially interred in Schneidemuhl prisoner of war camp cemetery, but in 1922 it was decided that the graves of Commonwealth servicemen who had died in Germany should be brought together into four permanent cemeteries.

His body was exhumed from the camp cemetery and brought to Berlin south-western cemetery where his name is also commemorated today.

Mr Linford found an entry in the 1911 census showing Ernest as a student teacher living with his parents John and Eliza and his five siblings in Tollesbury, near Witham. The record shows he was born in 1893 in Ingrave, Essex.

Ernest’s death is also commemorated on the Tollesbury War Memorial.

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