South Oxford Community Centre

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66 men - Ernest Little

[Little EJ OJI 03-11-1915 p.7 smaller]

Image from the
Oxford Journal Illustrated,
3 November 1915, p.7

 

[Little EJ gravestone Botley Adrian Colbrooke smaller]

Image: Adrian Colbrook

Ernest James LITTLE

Ernest Little was born in Oxford on 19 March 1886, the eldest son of a William James Little, a groom, jobbing gardener and labourer. Ernest was one of three brothers - Ernest, Frederick and Hubert - who died in the War. Their father William (born in Oxford in 1860/61) and mother Mary (née Squires, born in Southmoor in 1860/61) were married in 1882/83 and had nine children in total, two girls and seven boys: Gertrude (born 1883/84), Ernest (1886), William (September 1888), Frederick (November 1890), Arthur (December 1892), Elsie May (August 1896, but died in 1897), Hubert (1899), Cecil (November 1903, but died in infancy) and another Cecil who was born in 1904 and was given the same name.

When Ernest was born in 1886 the family was living at 1 Cromwell Place, Bridewell Square, St Aldate's, but in the late 1890s they were living at 7 Thompsons Yard and by 1901 they had moved to 10 Clarkes Row. They were still at 10 Clarkes Row when Cecil was born in 1903 and when Gertrude, the oldest of the siblings, had a daughter, Dorris Minnie Little, in December 1905. By 1911 the family had moved to 198 Marlborough Road in Grandpont.

Ernest attended the St Aldate's Boys' Elementary School. On leaving school he worked as an errand boy for Boots the Chemist on Queen Street and later as a shoemaker's assistant. He enlisted in Abingdon in October 1908, when he was 22, and joined the Grenadier Guards at Caterham. According to his military records he was 5' 9" tall, weighed 13st had a chest circumference of 41", a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. By 1911 he was a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, service no. 13992, and was living in St George's Barracks in Hanover Square, London.

When War was declared, Ernest was called up from the Army Reserve and was sent to France the following November. His battalion was engaged in various actions on the Western Front. Ernest was severely wounded in the thigh on 7 October 1915 at the Battle of Loos, which took place between 25 September and 18 October, and which was the largest British offensive mounted that year.

He returned to England on 15 October 1915, and was treated at hospitals in Woolwich and Beckenham for five months. On 11 March 1916 he was travelling home to Oxford, and stopped at Didcot to change trains. Whilst waiting for the 8:10pm to Oxford he fell onto the track and was killed by a train. It was eight days before his 30th birthday, he had not been back to Oxford since War broke out, and his family had been expecting him home that day.

Ernest was buried in the Botley Cemetery, with military honours; his coffin was conveyed there on a gun carriage accompanied by men of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Botley is one of several cemeteries established in Oxford in the mid-19th century (following the Burial Acts). During the First World War it was used as a burial place for soldiers who died in Oxford, usually at hospitals that made up the wartime Third Southern General Hospital. This occupied the Examination Schools on the High Street (mainly for the walking wounded), the Town Hall (particularly for malaria patients), the Cowley Road Workhouse, part of the Littlemore Pauper Lunatic Asylum (for victims of shell shock) and several colleges. There are 742 war burials at Botley, 156 of them Commonwealth War Graves from the First World War. At the request of his mother, Ernest's headstone is inscribed 'Nearer my God to Thee'.

With thanks to members of the Little family for additional information.

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