Ernest Thorpe

Ernest Thorpe

29451 Private Ernest Thorpe,

8th (Service) Battalion, The Border Regiment

The tiny village of Fowlis Wester in Perthshire (National Library of Scotland)

Ernest Thorpe was the son of John, an over-ground colliery labourer, and Grace Thorpe of Croft End, Aberford Road, in Barwick.

Ernest Thorpe was born in Barwick in 1899, but his mother was originally from the tiny village of Fowlis Wester in Perthshire, Scotland, and his father was from Ince, near Oldham in Lancashire. Grace Thorpe had a son, John Ritchie, from a previous marriage, and he was born in Scotland. John Taylor, who being born in the same village as Grace Thorpe, is presumed to be a relative completed the household as a boarder. He was a road labourer.

Ernest Thorpe was conscripted into the Army in April 1917, aged 18, and was sent to 6th Training Reserve Battalion at Rugeley in Staffordshire. A transfer to 10th Training Reserve Battalion followed in August 1917. He embarked for France on 27th March 1918, being transferred to the West Riding Regiment at the same time. Two days later he was transferred again to the 8th Battalion, The Border Regiment.

Oosthove Farm, where Ernest Thorpe was killed (National Library of Scotland)

Private Ernest Thorpe was killed in action in the Battle of the Lys, sometimes referred to as the 4th Battle of Ypres. His battalion had been in action at Oosthove Farm which sits directly on the French and Belgian border, in fact the border runs down the centre of the road that splits the rebuilt farm in two. The Germans launched a heavy attack in the area, causing A Company to be cut off, while the remaining companies of the battalion were forced to withdraw, after suffering heavy casualties. By the end of the 10th April 1918, the Germans had advanced three miles and captured the small town of Steenwerk. Ernest Thorpe had been with his battalion for just 12 days.

Ernest Thorpe's grave at Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerk

At the time of his death, it had been impossible to recover his body, but after the war was over, the battlefields were searched for the remains of soldiers who were still listed as missing. The body of Ernest Thorpe was found within the confines of Oosthove Farm, and he was identified by his dog-tags. That he had spent so little time with his battalion of the Border Regiment is well illustrated by the fact that his identity discs still bore the details of West Riding Regiment. His remains were brought for burial to Trois Arbres Cemetery, just outside Steenwerk. He is now one of more than 1700 casualties buried there.

Mrs Grace Thorpe was awarded a pension following the death of her son, and on her death in 1941, it was transferred to her widower, John.