WOOLAVINGTON WWI WAR MEMORIAL Private Ernest THYER
Private Ernest THYER No. 56899
Served with 11th (Service) Battalion (K3) Lancashire Fusiliers
74th Infantry Brigade. 25th Division
Killed in action on 24 April 1918 in the vicinity of Mount Kemmel, Flanders
Buried at Caberret Rouge Cemetery, Souchez, Arras. Plot xx, Row B, Grave 26
Ernest was already an established family man with a local business as a wheelwright when he took up arms to defend his country. Although he had married Emma Jane Coles from Woolavington in the local church in 1907 his family was better known in Westonzoyland and East Huntspill.
His great grandfather and grandfather had both been blacksmiths in East Huntspill for at least 40 years in the middle of the 19th century. His father however had moved on from this ancient craft, firstly as a driver of a portable threshing machine, and secondly as the operator of the steam pumping station at Westonzoyland. This is where Ernest grew up, eventually becoming a carpenter’s apprentice, before commencing his own wheelwright business in Woolavington. Incidentally the pumping station at Westonzoyland still exists and is open to the public, so it is possible to see where young Ernest grew up.
Ernest was called up and his service record confirms he was enlisted on 21 September 1916 and so he left his wife and three young sons and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers.
The battle of Mount Kemmel, just on the Belgian side of the northern French/Belgian border, was part of one of the last German offences of the war. The ‘The War Illustrated’ of 19th October, 1918 described the situation as follows: ‘The Germans drove us northward over the ridge which runs from Neuve Eglise to Bailleul they began shelling the Mont [Monastery], and the monks stood not upon the order of their going.
Then on the 25th April Kemmel fell. [Ernest Thyer was killed on 24/4/1918]. That was a staggering blow. I had been up there a few days before. The French had just taken it over. They were a fine lot, and they seemed to me to have strong positions. The whole place was like a rabbit warren, tunnelled and hollowed into caves, where the garrison could be secure from the enemy's guns. There was a heavy half-hour's bombardment while I was up there, but no one was killed or even hurt. We all "went to ground."
From a spacious dug-out on the side of a hill I watched shells exploding in a ploughed field below, and chatted with the officers of a Lancashire battalion, who paid no more attention to the shelling than if it had been a shower of rain. However in a few days Kemmel was German, the Lancashire Fusiliers nearly all gone.’ Including Ernest.
As previously mentioned the Thyer family were well known in Westonzoyland, to the extent that Ernest is commemorated on their war memorial (which is also in the church) as well as that in Woolavington.
Contributed by Godfrey Hebdon