14557 Private Ernest William Bearton, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment; later 25581 Garrison Battalion, Suffolk Regiment and G/30365 17th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Born on 9th July 1893 in Dagnall, Buckinghamshire
Died on 3rd August 1964 in Norwich
Ernest William Bearton was born in Dagnall, the third of the five children of Ezra Bearton and Ellen Matilda née Randall.
His eldest sister Annie Matilda was born in 1886 and his second sister Priscilla in 1887. His brother Edwin David Bierton or Bearton was born on 15th September 1899 and his younger sister Edith May on 10th July 1903. All except Edith were born in Dagnall. Their father was an Agricultural Labourer.
On 21st October 1900, 7 year old Ernest Bearton was admitted to Standard 1 at Little Gaddesden School as the family had moved to Ringshall. Nine days later Samuel Green, the Headmaster, noted:
I am sorry to say that the little boy Ernest Bearton St. 1, who was entered last week, is very much behind in his work.
The 1901 Census showed that the Bearton family living at 9 Ringshall.
School did not seem to be a high priority for Ernest, as shown by the following Log Book entries. The spelling of the family surname as either Bearton or Bierton was common at this time.
9th October 1901:
Mrs Bierton wrote to me on Tuesday saying her boy (St.1) was sick. The School children say that he has been staying to mind the Baby while his mother went acorning, & that he has been acorning this morning and this afternoon himself. They say he was under the trees picking acorns when they came to school this morning & also this afternoon.
10th October 1901:
Ernest Bierton (see above) is at School again. I sent a message to his mother yesterday.
To leave school before he was 14, Ernest needed to pass the Exemption Examination to obtain a Labour Certificate. Although he tried this in May 1906, November 1906 and May 1907, he was unsuccessful. However, in July 1907, he was finally able to leave school, having reached 14 years of age.
In the 1911 Census, 17 year old Ernest was a Domestic Gardener living with his parents and younger siblings at 9 Ringshall. His father was a Farm Cowman and his mother a Laundry Worker (probably at the laundry at 14 Ringshall). His younger siblings Edwin, aged 11, and Edith,7, were still at school.
Ernest Bearton was one of 17 men on the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour who volunteered for the Bedfordshire Regiment in the first month of the War. 12473 William Wells volunteered on 26th August followed by 12589 William Grant, 12591 George Cash and almost certainly 12593 Charles Batchelor on the 27th. 13330 Frank Dove R.I.P. and 13724 Horace Halsey joined on or before 3rd September 1914 and a further 11 men attested on 3rd September. These were 13785 Edward Saunders, 14374 Harold Catt, 14452 Herbert Jacobs, 14532 John Mayling, 14553 Victor Collier, 14546 Frederick Purton R.I.P., 14557 Ernest Bearton, 14575 Arthur Maunders, 17221 Bertie Purton, 17231 Herbert Fenn and 3/8219 Jesse Holland.
Ernest served in France with the 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment from 27th April 1915. He later served in the 1st Garrison Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (25581), the dates of which are unknown, before being transferred to the 17th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (G/30365), which was also a Garrison Battalion. Possibly he had been injured in action, but no further details of his service have survived. He was transferred to Class Z (Reserve) on 27th March 1919. For his War Service, Ernest was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Ernest Bearton is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. His entry records him serving in the 1st Bn. Bedfordshire Regiment, the regiment in which he first served. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Next to Ernest on the Rolls is his first cousin Oliver Bearton, Remount Dept, whose father Frederick was the younger brother of Ernest’s father Ezra.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
In 1919 (3rd Quarter) Ernest William Bearton married Hilda Evalyne Boast in Norwich. It is unclear whether they settled in Norwich straight away, as no Electoral Register entries have been found, but they were certainly living there by 1939. The 1939 Register records Ernest as a Cemetery Foreman, and Hilda with “Unpaid Domestic Duties”, living at 48 Wellington Road, Norwich. Hilda died in Norwich in 1959 (2nd Quarter).
In 1964 (1st Quarter), Ernest Bearton married Hilda May Carter, a widow, in Norwich. They lived at 48 Wellington Road. However, the marriage lasted a maximum of 7 months before Ernest’s death, aged 71, on 3rd August 1964.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson