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Ernest Albert Egerton VC


Ernest was born at Longton in Staffordshire on 10th November 1897, the son of Mr and Mrs T H Egerton of Meir Lane; on leaving school, he became a miner at the Florence Colliery. He enlisted into 3rd Battalion The North Staffordshire Regiment on 10th November 1915 (his 18th birthday) and, after training, was posted to 1st Battalion The North Staffordshire Regiment in France. Here he was transferred, in October 1916, to 16th (Chatsworth Rifles) Battalion The Sherwood Foresters. The third (and bloodiest) battle of Ypres was fought in 1917 and, on 20th September, the 16th (Chatsworth Rifles) were operating in the area of Passchendaele Ridge, south east of Ypres. The ground conditions were beyond belief being thick in the Flanders heavy mud and, to add to the discomfort, visibility was extremely poor due to the mixture of fog and smoke. It was in the advance taking place on this day that Ernest was to win the Victoria Cross. The citation for the award appeared in the London Gazette dated 26th November 1917 and reads:


"For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty when, on 20th September 1917, during an attack on Bulgar Wood, South East of Ypres, Belgium, owing to fog and smoke, visibility was obscured and, in consequence thereof, the two leading waves of the attack passed over certain hostile dug-outs without clearing them. Enemy rifles, assisted by a machine gun, were firing from these dug-outs inflicting severe casualties on the advancing waves. When volunteers were called for to assist in clearing up the situation, Corporal Egerton at once jumped up and dashed for the dug-outs under heavy fire at short range. He shot in succession a rifleman, a bomber and a gunner, by which time he was supported and 29 of the enemy surrendered. The reckless bravery of the NCO relieved in less than 30 seconds an extremely difficult situation. His gallantry is beyond all price"


He was presented with his award by King George V at an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on 5th February 1917.


On a very cold but dry day in January 2009, Cliff Housley and Maj John Cotterill of the Sherwood Foresters Memorial Committee were in Belgium for meetings with officials of the Zonnebeek Commune. Whilst there, they took the opportunity to visit Bulgar Wood and try to find what was left of the bunker which Sgt Egerton had so successfully attacked. As it was winter, there was but little ground cover in the wood and last year's bracken was lying flattened and soaked from the earlier rain. However, after casting around for about an hour and crouching down as low as possible, it became blatantly obvious that there was


only one spot in the wood where a bunker would have been sited by the Germans. They made their way towards it and, as they drew ever closer, they became more and more excited for huge lumps of concrete began to appear and finally they were standing by what remained of the bunker. Like so many others, it had been mined and blown up after the war. Most were then levelled and eventually ploughed over. But, unlike those which had been sited in fields, this one was in Bulgar Wood and the wood had been replanted. It was not as important to level the ground so they simply planted trees around it. The double doorway of the bunker is clearly visible, one half of the bunker faces the expected attack of an enemy, the other leads to rest and storage quarters at what would have been the rear. The whole bunker collapsed in on itself when it was mined after the war but little or no effort has been made to remove the debris or fill in the resultant hole which, consequently, was almost full of water and 4/5 feet deep.


134 October 2009


The Mercian Eagle


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