Ernest William Wedlock
Served with Essex County Constabulary from Dec 17, 1896 and died on Sep 13, 1918.
Ernest Wedlock was born in 1874 at Ramsden Bellhouse, the eldest son of William and Caroline Wedlock. William was a serving Essex policeman and Ramsden Bellhouse was one of the many locations he served during his twenty-seven year police career. On leaving school Ernest became a clerk, but at the age of twenty-two he gave up that employment to follow in his father's footsteps and on December 17, 1896, he joined Essex Constabulary as Constable 267. William had by that time been promoted Sergeant and was stationed at Orsett.
Ernest, who stood just under five feet nine inches tall, was initially posted to Southend, but then transferred to Colchester where, on Christmas Day 1901, he married twenty-four year old Lucy Selina Talbot, the daughter of a pork butcher, at St. James's Church.
Subsequent police service took him to Harwich, Boxted, Braintree, Coggeshall and Maldon. While on duty at Boxted on New Year's Day 1904 he was found to be 'under the influence of drink'. His punishment was to have his pay reduced from 28 shillings to 26s. 10d. for three months.
Strangely, twenty years earlier almost to the day, on January 2, 1884, his father had been fined 10 shillings for failing to attend a conference point and making a false entry in his journal. In another remarkable parallel Ernest was to be in trouble for precisely the same offence on March 7, 1907, when stationed at Coggeshall; for this lapse he was fined five shillings and received a severe reprimand and caution.
By the outbreak of the First World War Ernest was stationed at Epping Upland and living with his wife and family at Rose Cottage in Epping Green. At some time when serving in this area he was attacked and assaulted with a cosh in the Ongar Road.
On May 31, 1915, Ernest volunteered for Military Service and enlisted with the Essex Regiment. At that time he was forty-one years old and the father of ten children, two of whom had died. He had been a policeman for over eighteen years and was probably the oldest Essex policeman to volunteer for Military Service. The reason for him volunteering appears to be his concern that white feathers were being given to fit young men who had failed to volunteer and he did not wish to face that indignity. He had said, 'There are some white feathers about and I'm off.'
Ernest was initially posted to the 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment as Private 19434.
In war the 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment acted as a supply for drafts to other battalions. They trained recruits and provided home defence. From the beginning of the war the 3rd Battalion staffed four defence posts in the Harwich area and then moved to the Felixstowe area in 1916. The strength of the Battalion was raised to 2,000, being organised initially in six companies but later in eight companies. This was considerably larger than normal battalion strength but provided a means of training the new volunteers to an appropriate standard so that they could be transferred to other battalions of the Essex Regiment serving in the front line. Soldiers injured in the line, who were hospitalised, were later transferred to the 3rd Battalion where they were assessed for further front line duties.
There is no record of what happened to Ernest Wedlock following his enlistment with 3rd Battalion Essex Regiment, but it is fairly certain that he transferred to one of the Essex battalions serving in France because there is a record of him being wounded in October 1916, whilst in France. It is a highly probable he was serving with one of the Essex battalions engaged in the Battle of the Somme when he received his injury (Battle of the Somme July 1st - November 17, 1916).
At some stage Ernest was transferred as Sergeant 84009 to 141st Company, Labour Corps; this would have been after recovering from the injury sustained in France during October 1916. It was common for soldiers who had been injured to be transferred to the Labour Corps if it was considered that they were not fully fit for infantry duty. Age could also be a factor in such considerations and Ernest was over forty years old.
The Labour Corps was responsible for repairing roads and ensuring supply routes were open, so whilst not directly in the front line they were often within shelling range.
Ernest Wedlock died on September 13, 1918. His widow learnt of the circumstances of her husband's death in a letter (reproduced in the Essex County Chronicle of September 27, 1918) from the Company Captain.
'It will be some little satisfaction to you to know that he suffered no pain, for he was dead at once. He was working in a ruined village with his platoon on work in connection with the advance, so that his death is recorded as killed in action. Your husband was the most efficient sergeant in this Company, and we feel regret at his loss very much. In due course he would have proceeded to a School of Instruction with a view to taking a commission, which fact makes his death more regrettable.'
Ernest is buried in grave 111. C. 11 at Hersin Communal Cemetery extension, Hersin, Pas de Calais, France. The Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery is located within the local commune cemetery that also includes a French Military Cemetery. It backs on to farm land with tall poplar trees standing guard in the distance.
The headstone that marks Ernest's grave has been inscribed at the request of his family 'Eternal rest give to him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.'
He is also commemorated on a memorial in Epping Upland Churchyard and on a memorial inside the church.
It is difficult for us to imagine the hardship and deprivation faced by his widow and their children following his death. Lucy never remarried and continued to live at Rose Cottage until the time of her death when she was in her nineties. She had been bedridden for a number of years. Along with other widows of policemen killed in The Great War she had to wait until 1953 before receiving a police widow's pension. The husband of one of her daughters was able to buy Rose Cottage and this ensured she was able to continue living there till her death.
Ernest and Lucy's children were born in the following years - William (1902), Dorothy Caroline (1903), Sidney James (1904) (when he was eighteen years old it was arranged, through the church, for him to be sent to Australia where he worked on a farm. He never returned to the UK.), Henry (1905) died aged two years old, Gladys Ella Mary (1906) Gwendoline Emily (1908), Jessica Maud (1910) died suffering from diabetes at 12 years of age and is buried in Epping Upland Churchyard, Enid Frances Lucy (1913), Joseph Ronald (1914) and Evelyn Mabel (1916). Joseph and Evelyn were educated at The Police School.
After Ernest left for France, probably in late 1916, Lucy had a photograph taken of the family which we presume was carried by Ernest until his death.
Oh! we don't want to lose you
But we think you ought to go
For your King and your Country
Both need you so.
Paul A Rubens
(Music Hall song written 1914)