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War Memorials

In Memory of
Gunner 34996
Royal Garrison Artillery
Who was Killed in Action on Monday, 25th June 1917
Age 30

Row L Grave 13
Athies Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Athies Communal Cemetery Extension

Athies Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France1

Ernest Hollingsworth was born in Stanton on the Wolds, Notts in 18872, the son of Harriett Hallam and step-son of William Hollingsworth. In 1891, Ernest was being cared for in the Stanton on the Wolds home of his aunt, Harriet's eldest sister Ann Dutton (née Hallam) and uncle John Dutton, an agricultural worker. His mother, then age 22 and still single, was working as a domestic servant at the Chequers Inn in Chilwell, Notts3. Later in 1891, she married William Hollingsworth, a bricklayer's labourer from Chilwell4 and set up home in Beeston, Notts. By 1901 they were living at 9 Victoria Terrace, City Road, Beeston with three children of their own alongside Ernest, then aged 14 and working as a lace dresser5.

In March 1904, Ernest enlisted at Nottingham with the Sherwood Foresters for six years6. In the following year he transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery. By 1911, having apparently signed on for a longer period of service, he was stationed in Gibraltar with No 4 Company7. When war came in 1914, he was immediately involved and, having been transferred as a Gunner in 8th Siege Battery8, he embarked for France on 14 October 19149.

The Royal Garrison Artillery had developed from fortress-based artillery located on British coasts. Although it possessed very little heavy artillery at the beginning of the war, the situation soon changed and the immense destructive power of its heavy, large calibre guns and howitzers, positioned some way behind the front line, made it an important component of the British fighting forces. Siege Batteries were equipped with heavy howitzers which sent large calibre high explosive shells in a high trajectory, plunging fire. Typically, a battery was equipped with 6, 8 or 9.2 inch howitzers, although some had huge railway or road-mounted 12 inch howitzers. As tactics developed, they were usually employed in destroying or neutralising enemy artillery, and for putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, stores, roads and railways behind enemy lines.10

There was a constant danger that, once the relatively fixed position of the gun sites had been identified by the enemy, they themselves would become targets for a return of large calibre fire. For over 2½ years Ernest would have seen action and tragedy and would have been in almost constant danger, often in miserable conditions. He had done his duty and had somehow survived but now, probably while taking part in an offensive near Arras, possible around Fampoux - we have no documentary evidence11 - he was killed in action on 25 June 1917

He is buried in Athies Communal Cemetery Extension. Athies is a village 5 Kms east of Arras with its communal cemetery on the north side of the road from Arras to Fampoux and the extension is on its north-east side. The Extension was begun immediately after the capture of the village on 9th April 1917 and used by field ambulances and fighting units until May 1918, and again in September 1918. It contains 312 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 32 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate three casualties known to be buried among them. The extension also contains 41 Second World War burials, ten of them unidentified.12.

Gunner Hollingsworth was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1914 Star13. His Army financial effects of £17 11s 8d were paid to his mother as sole legatee on 9 July 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of £16 10s on 10 October 191014.

1The photograph of the Athies Communal Cemetery Extension is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His name on his birth registration was Ernest Paling Hallam The registration was in Bingham Registration District (of which Stanton on the Wolds, Notts was part) in Q1/1887 (Ref 7b 461). At various times, he gave his birthplace as 'Plumtree' or 'Keyworth'; these villages are adjacent to Stanton on the Wolds.
31891 Census : Piece 2718 Folio 156 (Stanton on the Wolds, Notts). Piece 2723 Folio 15 (Chequers Inn, Chilwell, Notts).
4They married at Beeston Parish Church on 26 December 1891.
51901 Census : Piece 3153 Folio 112. His half-siblings were then Alfred (b. c1895), Arthur (b. 1896) and Gertrude (b. c1898). George was born later that year.
6His enlistment papers survive and are available on findmypast.co.uk. His declared age of 18 years and 2 months appears to have been overstated by one year.
71911 Census : Piece 34996 - age 24 (i.e. now correct).
8Although his CWGC burial records state he was attached to 36th Siege Battery, his entries in the medal records and on his medal card record that he was attached to 8th Siege Battery. In the absence of other evidence, we have accepted the latter.
9This embarkation date is given on his Medal Card and in the 1914 Star Roll. It is consistent with the embarkation of 8th Siege Battery as a whole.
10This description of the evolution and role of the Royal Garrison Artillery is based those on the The Long, Long Trail (www.1914-1918.net/cra.htm and www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-royal-artillery-in-the-first-world-war/the-siege-batteries-of-the-royal-garrison-artillery).
11No War Diary has been found for the 8th Siege Battery.
12This description of Athies Communal Cemetery Extension is based on that included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
13Ernest's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Rolls and on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
14Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.

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