F9680 Leading Mechanic Ernest Ruffett, Royal Naval Air Service, later 209680 Sergeant Mechanic Royal Air Force
Born on 6th March 1888 in Edlesborough
Died on 17th March 1963 in West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth
Ernest Ruffett was born in Edlesborough, the fifth of the 6 sons of Charles Ruffett and Sarah née Duncombe. His father was an Agricultural Labourer. The family surname was sometimes written as “Ruffitt”.
His brothers were:
- Willis George, born in 1874
- Fred, born 25th May 1876
- Bertram Jabez, born in 1878 but died aged 19
- Edmund Charles Henry, born 21st April 1885
- Horace Ruffett, born 1st October 1891
By 5th April 1891, the family had moved to the cottage then known as 6 Ashridge Park, Little Gaddesden. This was later known as 41 Ringshall and 41 Ashridge Park. It is now part of Witches Hollow on Ringshall Drive. In the 1891 Census, 3 year old Ernest was at home with his mother, a Straw Plaiter. His brother Edmund, 5, was at school while his father, 14 year old Fred and 12 year old Bertram were all General Labourers.
On 17th August 1891, Ernest started at Little Gaddesden School. He was then 3 years and 5 months old.
Little Gaddesden School had a Diocesan Inspection in January or February each year, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The names of those children who distinguished themselves in this examination are recorded in the School Log Book. Ernest’s name is included in 1896, 1897 and 1898.
On 10th March 1899, Ernest was one of nine children to sit the Labour Certificate Examination, which, on 12th March, he learnt that he had passed, as had Frederick Cutler. 11 year old Ernest could, therefore, leave school and go to work with a Certificate of Proficiency.
The 1901 Census shows 13 year old Ernest working as a Domestic Office Boy, living at home at 41 Ringshall, Ashridge Park with his family. His father was a Farm Cattle Man, 24 year old Fred a Rural Dustman, Edmund, 15, a Railway Clerk and Horace Ruffett, 9, at school.
Service in the Volunteers 5
Under the heading ‘Prior Engagement in H.M. Forces’, Ernest’s R.A.F. Airmen’s Service Records notes that, from 7th May 1903 to 31st March 1908, he had served in the Volunteers. No further information is given but this is likely to have been with the 2nd (Herts) Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, in which a number of men from Little Gaddesden served.
The 1911 Census 2
By 1911, the Ruffetts lived at 20 Little Gaddesden. 23 year old Ernest was then a Carpenter and Joiner and 19 year old Horace Ruffett an Apprentice Carpenter and Joiner. Both worked on the Ashridge Estate. Their father was a Farm Cowman and their older brothers had all left home.
Teaching in Birmingham 6
Ernest’s Teachers’ Registration Council Register entry shows that, between 1913 and 1915, he was an Assistant Manual Training Instructor at Bloomsbury School, Birmingham. He then moved to Watford and was the Manual Training Instructor in charge at Callow Lands Handicrafts Centre, Watford. His RAF Airmen’s Service Record gives his 1918 address as 122 Whippendell Road, Watford.
On 24th May 1915, Ernest Ruffett married Jane Ann Richardson in Berkhamsted.
Military Service 8
On 1st December 1915, Ernest Ruffett enlisted into the Royal Navy, to serve in the Royal Naval Air Service for the duration of hostilities. He was 5 feet 8¾ inches tall with a 39 inch chest. He had Brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His civilian trade was recorded as ‘Carpenter’.
Ernest was posted to HMS President II at Hendon as an Air Mechanic 1st Class in the Royal Naval Air Service. His Service Number was F9680. Ernest’s Naval Record includes information on his character and ability, for which an annual entry was made. His character was consistently very good and his ability as a Mechanic was superior.
On 8th April 1916, Ernest’s wife Jane gave birth to twins: a daughter Dorothy Mary Ruffett and a son Edward Horace Ruffett.
On 30th April 1917 Ernest was promoted to Leading Mechanic, still working at HMS President II at Hendon where he remained until 9th October 1917, when his Service Records notes service on HMS President II at Dunkirk. However, from 1st February 1918 to 31st March 1918, he served on HMS Daedalus at Dunkirk.
However, on 1st April 1918, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force. Ernest’s rank was then Corporal Mechanic and his Service Number 209680. On 1st September 1918 he was promoted to Sergeant Mechanic. He served in 216 Squadron R.A.F. which was previously Naval A Squadron. He was an Aero Rigger.
Ernest was demobilised and transferred to the R.A.F. ‘G’ Reserve on 29th March 1919. He then returned to his home address in Watford and resumed his work as the Manual Training Instructor in charge at Callow Lands Handicrafts Centre. He was finally deemed discharged from the R.A.F. on 30th April 1920.
An addition to the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour 9
The original, pre-Second World War, wording on the left hand panel of the Little Gaddesden War Memorial on the village green, read:
This memorial is erected in honour of the one hundred and thirty six men who went from the villages of Little Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall and served in the war of 1914 = 1918. The names of those who gave their lives for their country are cut on the stones here. The names of those who returned to England are preserved in the Church.
However, the Church Roll of Honour lists only 119 men; one of those omitted is Ernest Ruffett who grew up in Ashridge Park and Little Gaddesden but had moved away before war was declared. However, his brother Horace Ruffett is named on the original Roll and his parents remained in Little Gaddesden at least until his father’s death in 1916. Ernest Ruffett, Royal Naval Air Service has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Ernest taught at Callow Lands Handicrafts Centre until 1935 when he became the teacher in charge of the Handicrafts Centre at Leggatt’s Way Senior Boys’ School, Watford. Electoral Register entries show that he and his family lived at 122 Whippendell Road until at least 1930. However, the 1939 Register shows the family living at Woodside, Ridge Lane, Watford. Ernest was still a Handicrafts Teacher, Jane had “Unpaid Domestic Duties”, Edward was an Elementary School Teacher and Special Constable and Dorothy a Civil Service Clerical Officer working in Customs and Excise.
On 17th March 1963, 75 year old Ernest Ruffett of 61 Ridge Lane, Watford died in the West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth. His widow Jane lived until January 1978.
4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
9. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson