Ernest James Chilvers was born and raised in Chelmsford and worked as a turner for Crompton’s. He joined the army early in the war and was killed in action near Loos in October 1915. He was Mentioned in Dispatches. His home was in Queen Street.
Ermest was born in Chelmsford on 4th January 1895, the fourth of five sons of the blacksmith Harry Chilvers and Emma Maria Chilvers (nee King). He was christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 2nd March 1895 along with his brothers Frederick Thomas Chilvers (1890-1939) and Edward Charles Chilvers (born in 1892). At that time Ernest’s father was a labourer living at 2 Noah’s Ark, off Queen Street, Chelmsford.
Ernest also had an elder brother, Harry Sidney George Chilvers (born in 1887 and christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 12th January 1890, died in 1958) and a younger one, William George Chilvers (born on 7th April 1897 and christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 19th January 1898), died 1966). All of the family were born in Chelmsford.
Ernest’s father had been born in teh Marylebone Workhouse in Lodon on 7th December 1865; his mother 1861 in Chelmsford – they had married on 23rd July 1887 at St John’s Church, Moulsham at which point Harry was living in Queen Street and his bride in Galleywood. In 1891 they were living at 130 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford.
Ernest’s brother Edward died in 1896, aged three.
Ernest began his education at Moulsham Infants School in Moulsham Street on 10th January 1898, when his family were living at 2 Queen Street, Chelmsford. Three years later the 1901 census found six year-old Ernest living with his parents and three surviving brothers at Noah’s Ark. At the time his father was a ‘hammer-man at works’. A decade later the 1911 census listed 16 year-old Ernest living with his parents and two brothers at the same address, then known as 2 Ark Cottages, Queen Street. Ernest’s father was a blacksmith’s stoker while Ernest and his brother Harry were turners. All three worked at an electrical engineers at Crompton’s.
Ernest lived and enlisted at Chelmsford soon after the declaration of war, serving as Lance Corporal 12440 in the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment. The battalion was part of the 35th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division, one of six Divisions which together formed the first part of ‘Kitchener’s Army’ from August 1914. The battalion formed in initially at Shornecliffe in Kent. After training the battalion, including Ernest went to France at the end of May/start of June 1915, entering the front line in July 1915 near Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium, close to the French border, a comparatively quiet sector.
In October 1915 the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Essex Regiment participated in the Battle of Loos, holding positions to the north-west of the town in the Gun Trench-Hulloch Quarries sector. On 13th October 1915 troops from other battalions in the 35th Brigade launched an offensive, now called the ‘Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt’, to capture the Hulloch Quarries. The Division succeeded in capturing Gun Trench and the south western face of the Hulluch Quarries, while remaining parts of the Quarries remained in German hands. Ernest’s battalion subsequently took over as relief and repulsed a fierce German counter-attack on 19th October 1915 - the day that Ernest was killed in action. He was aged 21.
A post-war history of the battalion included the following report of that day:
“On October 19th C Company relieved D Company and had to endure merciless shelling from the Germans, but as the men stood their ground splendidly, it produced little effect. ’Shorts’ from the British artillery caused trouble and it was from one of these that Captain H. L. Watts was killed.
About a quarter of an hour before the normal time for stand-to (4.30 p.m.), Captain G. Green, of C Company, was observing with a periscope near the barricade end of the new trench when he saw a German officer pointing out to some men various parts of the trench held by the 9th Essex. He immediately caused C Company to stand to and the bombers and machine gunners had just got ready for action when three squads, each of six men, advanced from the edge of The Quarry. They were immediately fired upon. One man actually reached a point in the Battalion’s portion of the trench, but fell dead within it. One or two others crept within throwing distance, but they were all killed by the vigilant Essex. The men were still on the firestep in readiness for any further movement when heavy rifle fire was opened from the edge of The Quarry, which was evidently thickly manned. The divisional artillery, with that of the Guards Division, was turned upon this hostile movement and the advance finally died away from the accurate rifle and machine gunfire of the Essex,, after which hostile activity was limited to bombing at the barricade, in which, after a long struggle, the Battalion bombers finally gained superiority....During the night the enemy several times crept within bombing distance of our line, but were repulsed.”
CHILVERS, ERNEST JAMES,
Lance Corporal, 9th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment (Mentioned in Dispatches)
On 12th November 1915 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“E. Chilvers, 9th Essex, who has been killed in action, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Chilvers, of Queen Street, Chelmsford.”
Before the end of 1915 Major H. C. Copeman, 9th Essex Regt. wrote to Ernest's brother, Corpl. Frederick Chilvers, of the 8th Hussars about the death of Ernest:
"Your brother was killed action Oct. 19 in repelling a counter-attack on a portion of a trench, near the Quarries, south of Hohenzollern Redoubt, north of Loos, which D Company and bombers had captured the previous day. He volunteered to act a bomber, and did splendidly. I personally was very sorry to lose him. I commanded D Company from Oct., 1914. till last February, and recommended him for his lance stripe. I liked your brother, with his cheery ways; he was always keen, and quite justified my selection by the way he did his duties. This may soften slightly the blow which his death will deal to his parents and yourself, for it is some consolation to know that he was appreciated by his officers. I heard at the time that his conduct was most plucky and brave. I buried him with several comrades near his captain Cpt. H. L. Watts, who was killed on the 19th by a shell, reading portions the funeral service."
The London Gazette of 1st January 1916 reported posthumously that Ernest had been mentioned in dispatches.
In a letter to his parents, Lieut.- Col. Lewes, the Commanding Officer the Regiment, wrote:
"Your son behaved most gallantly, and I had much pleasure in recommending him for the D.C.M. As you will doubtless have seen, he was mentioned in dispatches on Jan. 1, 1916, but owing to the huge number of recommendations it was impossible for all to receive tho D.C.M. Our Divisional General, has, therefore, instituted system of cards for those not receiving tho D.C.M., and I have now got your son's, and send it to you to keep, as I am sure it may be a small consolation to you and yours to know how well your boy did, and that his conduct was recognised and appreciated by us. His death was great loss the Regiment." The card referred to stated: —"Your Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by your conduct in the field. I have read the report with much pleasure, and have brought it the notice higher authority.—A. 11. Scott, Major- General, Commanding 12th Division.”
Ernest's father also received a letter, dated 2nd March 1916 from the Assistant Military Secretary at the War Office, referring to his son's gallant and distinguished service in the field, and adding:— I am to express to you the King's high appreciation of these services, and that His Majesty trusts that their public acknowledgment may some consolation in your bereavement."
Ernest has no known grave and is commemorated at the Loos Memorial at Dud Corner Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Chelmsford. Ernest was entitled to the Victory, British War and 1915 Star medals.
Ernest’s brother William also served in the Essex Regiment.
The 1918 register of electors listed Ernest’s parents still at 2 Noah’s Ark, Queen Street, Chelmsford. The property was demolished and redeveloped after the Second World War.
His parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1937.
Ernest’s father died in 1945; his mother in 1955. His niece was married to Harry John Woods who was killed in an air raid on Marconi’s factory in Chelmsford in 1941.