Private Ernest Leslie Janes, 2843 Hertfordshire Yeomanry, later 204132 Leicestershire Regiment
Born on 13th July 1897 in Hudnall
Died on 16th February 1923 in Hudnall
Ernest Leslie Janes was born in Hudnall, the eldest child of Fred Janes and Emily Anne née Cox. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 5th September that year.
His father was a Butcher; the family lived at the Butcher’s Shop, 9 Hudnall (now part of Plum Tree Cottage).
Ernie’s younger siblings were:
- Sister: Edith Emily (Edie), born 19th September 1899
- Brother: Fred, born 21st September 1901
- Sister: Marjorie Emma (Madge), born 4th September 1903
- Brother: Austin Seth (Seth), born 16th August 1907
Ernie attended Little Gaddesden School, where he started on 15th April 1901, an Infant aged 3 years and 9 months.
School prizes were sometimes awarded for good attendance and for examination performance. The Log Book entry for March 14th 1904 notes that:
Two prizes were given in each Standard to those who obtained the greatest number of marks in the four quarterly examinations.
In Division 1 of the Infants, Bertha Wells (sister of William Wells) came top; she received a prize of 1 shilling and a handkerchief. Ernest Janes came second and was awarded 6 pence and a handkerchief.
On 13th July 1911, his 14th Birthday, Ernest Janes left Little Gaddesden School from Standard 7. He then started working with his father as a Butcher.
Parts of Ernie’s “Burnt Documents” British Army Service Record have survived, mainly detailing his service in the Leicestershire Regiment. His Army Form 3997 (Discharge Documents) has also survived. That includes a copy of Form Z.22, used when determining disability and awarding a War Pension. There is, however, some inconsistency of dates and information between these documents.
On 10th or 20th November 1915, 18 year old Ernie attested for the Hertfordshire Yeomanry; he served as a Private, Service Number 2843. Ernie was initially too young to serve overseas; he must therefore have served in the 2/1st Battalion, based in the Manningtree area of Essex. In October 1916, it moved to West Malling, Kent before moving to Sevenoaks in March 1917. Between 16th and 28th April 1917, Ernie spent 12 days in hospital (3rd Mounted Brigade Reception) at Sevenoaks; he was suffering from German Measles. On 4th June 1917, he was posted to the 6th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at Tidworth, Hampshire.
On 3rd September 1917, Ernie transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, serving as a Private, Service Number 204132. That battalion was a training unit based at Partington near Hull. Then, on 26th September 1917, he embarked for France. Next day, he was posted to the 8th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment.
The 8th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment was part of the 21st Division, in VII Corps of the British Fifth Army. On 21st March 1918, German forces launched a major attack against the Allied front on the Somme battlefield. After a five hour artillery bombardment, German infantry, advancing through fog, reached the British forward positions unnoticed. Around St Quentin, they breached the British front, held by the Fifth Army. That day was the first day of the period sometimes known as the German Spring Offensive.
Ernest Janes was one of many casualties that day. He suffered gunshot wounds to his face and left forearm (one part of his record indicates right hand). He was initially treated at 63 Field Ambulance and No 3 Stationary Hospital, Rouen. Then, on 24th March 1918, he returned to England aboard the Hospital Ship, HMHS St George. He spent the period 25th March to 20th April 1918 in the Berrington War Hospital, Shrewsbury.
However, his wounded arm needed further treatment. He was also suffering from “VDH” (valvular disease of the heart) and “DAH” (disordered action of the heart). His Army Form Z.22 then states that his heart problems were the result of Shell Shock. On 18th May 1918, Ernie was sent to the No. 2 Infantry Command Depot in Ripon. Command Depots aimed to rehabilitate soldiers not requiring hospital care but not yet fit to return to their units. Ernie remained at Ripon until 22nd July 1918. When he joined up in 1915, Ernie’s medical category was Ai. However, on 18th May 1918 it was assessed as Biii, i.e. only suitable for sedentary work.
Ernie’s remaining War Service was in England. On 4th August 1918, he was posted to the 4th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment at North Somercoates, Lincolnshire. Then, on 26th October 1918, he returned to the 3rd Battalion. For his War Service, Ernie was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Celebrating the Armistice 7
Ernie’s Service Record notes that, on 11th November 1918, while based at Beverley, he overstayed his pass. He was absent without leave from 22:00 that night until 14:30 on 15th November. He therefore had to forfeit 4 days’ pay. That page of his record shows him with his Leicestershire Regiment service number but attached to 492 Agricultural Company.
An undated entry in Ernie’s Service Record adjacent to his demobilisation details notes: “returns to former unit Herts Yeo…” Ernie was disembodied (discharged from the Territorial Force) on demobilisation on 23rd March 1919. He then returned to his parents’ home at 9 Hudnall. As the result of his heart problems caused by shell shock, Ernie was then awarded a War Pension. For the first 26 weeks following discharge, it was 11 shillings per week. For the next 26 weeks it was 8 shillings per week. After a medical review, his pension was extended for a further 34 weeks from 24th March 1920. He then received 12 shillings per week for 8 weeks, then 5 shillings 6 pence per week for 26 weeks. Ernie’s heart trouble was originally deemed to cause 40% disability but by 1920 it was less than 25% disability.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Ernest Janes 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. The regiment listed for him is the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, in which he first served. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. Also listed on the Rolls are Edward Saunders, the father of Edna Saunders who married Ernie’s youngest brother Seth, and Alban Stanbridge, who married Ernie’s sister Madge. Bernard Halsey, who married Ernie’s sister Edith, has been added to the Centenary Roll. However, Ernie did not live to see any of those marriages.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Ernie’s niece’s family photograph album includes a photo of Ernie with Phyllis Hoar; the family story is that they were engaged. However, they never married because Ernie died from a burst appendix/ peritonitis on 16th February 1923; he was only 25 years old. He was buried next day in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. In 1926 Phyllis, who was the cousin of Edward Hoar, George Hoar and Richard Hoar, married Basil Phillips, the younger brother of Bernard Phillips.
2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
16. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1923
18. The ‘burnt documents’ were First World War documents that survived a fire in a War Office store caused by an incendiary bomb in September 1940. Charred and water-damaged, they were unfit for consultation until microfilmed in a large programme started in 1996. See https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14567.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson