WHITEHEAD, Ernest [of Hawton] Private, 2779 1/8th Sherwood Foresters

Enlisted Newark 22 Oct 1914 Discharged Medically Unfit 16 Jun 1916

By Michael Whitehead


My father, Ernest Whitehead, enlisted in October 1914 and lost an arm whilst serving in France in 1916. He subsequently served as a postman for 29 years, the only disabled postman I have ever come across.

My father, who was a farm labourer living in Hawton, enlisted in Newark on 22nd October 1914 and served with the 1/8th Sherwood Foresters in France and Belgium from 6th June 1915 to 25th April 1916. He returned to the UK after losing his right arm just below the elbow. He would never talk about his time in the trenches and unfortunately we, his children, never asked. I don't even know the circumstances in which he was wounded.  From the 1/8th War Diaries, Capt Weetman's History of 1/8th in the Great War and Ancestry Military records it would appear that he joined the battalion, with 19 others on June 10th 1915 at Locre just over the France / Belgium border.   It looks likely that my father lost his arm between the 17th and 19th April 1916 in the trenches east of Berthonual farm near Mt St Eloy.  The 1/8th Sherwood Foresters War Diaries for the period shows there was action but no big battles.

It is interesting that, until I unearthed it, even my mother didn't know that it was the second time he had been wounded. The first time was in Aug 1915 which might explain the deep crease in his neck, just below the hair line and the piece of shrapnel in his leg which was never taken out. He was in a Clearing Station or hospital with a number of gassed Canadians. One Canadian soldier gave him a Kaschie bullet lighter which I still have.

In October 1919 after a period in Roehampton Hospital and discharge from the army he was employed as a Town Postman in Newark, a job he held until he was retired at 60 in 1949.

WW1 Service In Belgium & France

The following is a summarised transcription of the handwritten War Diaries for the 1/8th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Notts and Derby Regiment for the period June 1915 to April 1916 with annotations in italics giving some further information. A full day by day transcription for the period can be found on my website www.whiteheadme.info
My father landed in France on 6th June 1915 and cross checking with others who landed at the same date, joined his battalion at Locre on the 10th. He left France for England on 25th April 1916 after sustaining the wound which resulted in the loss of his right arm about 2” below the elbow.
Since he would never talk about life in the trenches it has been an emotional exercise transcribing these diaries.
The amount of detail in the diaries varies considerably as does the legibility of the handwriting.
The sources used are as follows:
The National Archives for the War Diaries.
Ancestry.co.uk for their Military records especially 1914/15 Star medal listings.
Capt Weetman’s History of the 1/8th Sherwood Foresters In the Great War
Newark Advertiser Wounded lists for Aug 20th 1915 and May 1916.
What few documents my father retained.
It is a shame that along with many others his Service records were the victim of German bombing in WW2.

I am going to the Ypres area in June 2015 to, maybe, stand on ground where my father stood 100 years ago.


June 10th 1915     Locre

20 re-enforcements arrived from England landing in France 6/6/15 including:

2092 Frank Attenborough Demobilised 7/1/19

2725 Thomas Davidson Accidently killed 31/7/15

1920 Frederick Froggart Killed In Action 12/4/18

2650 Percy E Hartley Demobilised 3/2/19

2978 Ernest  A Hill Killed In Action 5/4/16

2017 Sidney Frederick Horsfall Demobilised 18/3/19

2945 John Knowles Demobilised 9/1/19

2919 Robert Mapletoft Discharged  28/4/16

2872 Albert Ernest Paling  Killed In Action 14/7/16

2642 Leonard Smithurst Demobilised 28/1/1

1336 William Tudbury Died 23/6/16

2628 Arthur Walsham Killed In Action 14/8/16

2779 Ernest Whitehead Discharged 16/6/16


August 1915 Hooge and Sanctuary Wood


4 Officers wounded, 30 men killed and 89 wounded. It is probable that Ernest Whitehead was wounded for the 1st time during this period.



10th April 1916   Mont St Eloy Took over trenches East of Mont St Eloy in support of 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions Sherwood Foresters

16th     French miners exploded mine in front of right of our sector. Capt. C L Hill’s Company (D Company) occupied near lip of crater and consolidated position. (Operation Orders attached)

17th     After very quiet day enemy sprang mine opposite our lip – at midnight our A Company established post on near lip of crater, but was not able to consolidate position.

Killed 2775 Pte Edward Harry Mutton (Enlisted 22 Oct 1914 at Newark same as Ernest Whitehead)

Pte W North,

60 Sgt William Hiley Markham

18th and 19th     Further work done in consolidating position on rear lip of crater just mentioned.

Killed 1685 Pte Esma Nelson,

2491 Pte William Robinson,

1995 L Cpl John Footitt,

Pte G Marriott,

1352 Pte G H Johnson,

2290 Pte Leslie James Moore Died of Wounds

3125 Pte Harry Ellis

(Probable that Ernest Whitehead was severely wounded between 17th and 19th)


Photo:Ernest Whitehead (centre) with 2 chums I think after enlisting

Ernest Whitehead (centre) with 2 chums I think after enlisting

Whitehead Family Photo

Photo:Service Summary

Service Summary

Family Document

Photo:Army Reserve Declaration

Army Reserve Declaration

Family Document

Photo:Discharge Certificate

Discharge Certificate

Family Document

This page was added by Michael Whitehead on 02/03/2015.

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