Ernest Wood was born in Manchester's Hulme district in 1886, he was baptised however at St.John's in Chadderton on April 11th of that year. Ernest's parents were John, a cabinet maker, and Sarah, who had been born in Oldham. He was the third of five children, his siblings being Edith, Eleanor, Frank and William.
The 1891 census found the Woods at 83 Stretford Road in Hulme but by around the middle of the decade it looks like they had moved to Macclesfield, William being born there in 1896. By 1901 they were in Royton, living at 3 Elly Clough a couple of doors down from the Greyhound pub with 15 year old Ernest working as a piecer in one of the local cotton mills. This was perhaps the Vine Mill where he was working at the time of his enlistment. Ernest's father does not appear with the family in either the 1901 or 1911 censuses but does not appear to have died by this time. In 1911 Ernest was still living with his mother Sarah, at 15 Rainshaw Street, along with Edith and William. Sarah Wood died in 1913 aged 58.
Ernest headed into Manchester in January 1915 and enlisted into the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He was sent out for active service with the Regiment's 1st Battalion in July of that year, arriving in France on the 29th of that month. At the time Ernest joined them the Battalion had just finished a spell in the Ypres Salient and were moving down to the Somme sector.
On September 30th 1915 Ernest was wounded and returned to England. What befell him is unknown, the unit's war diary just records that they were away from the front line in billets at Forceville. Another man of the 1st KORL died that day, James Edgar Gibson (16686) who was listed as dying from his wounds. The Burnley Express recorded that a comrade had written to Gibson's brother stating that he had been killed by a bullet which adds to the mystery as to what Wood and Gibson were doing away from the Battalion at that time.
After a fairly lengthy spell in England recovering Ernest returned to the fray in mind June 1916. He was sent back to the 1st KORL as they were in preparation for the forthcoming Battle of the Somme. The 1st King's Own were to be in the centre of the opening dy assault on the fortified villages of Thiepval, Beaumont Hamel, Serre and Gommecourt. The German positions were generally on higher and better ground, and each village had been so fortified as to be almost impregnable. The area the King's Own were to attack lay between Beaumont Hamel and Serre. They were part of the 12th Brigade who, along with the 10th Brigade, were to passthrough the objectives taken by the 11th who were to be the initial assault troops.
At 07:20 on July 1st the Battalion moved off when the men of the 11th Brigade went over the top. These men found the German wire uncut by the artillery bombardment and suffered tremendous casualties and the next waves fared no better. The King's Own were moving up at this point to take control of the British front line vacated by men of the 11th Brigade and came under massive German artillery fire, the two left companies were reported as being almost wiped out and few of these men reached the front line. As it became apparent that the 11th Brigade had suffered a horrific number of casualties messages were relayed that the 10th and 12th were not to go forward. The message did not reach some of the leading battalions and sadly the men of the 1st King's and 2nd Essex crossed no man's land. Both units suffered further losses from artillery fire and also two small mines were exploded under the men of Ernest Wood's Battalion. Nevertheless they reached and crossed the German front line, one can only imagine the utter carnage of the 11th Brigade's assault they must have passed through. Men of the King's Own and Essex not only reached the farthest trench occupied by the 11th Brigade but small groups went forward and almost reached Serre. Many of this latter group were shot down by Germans who came in behind them from trenches on either side which had not been taken. At 12:30 the Germans cleared their old front trenches using grenades and forced the British back. By the evening the British were back in their own trenches counting their casualties. The 1st King's Own suffered 409 dead, wounded and missing from around about 530 who went into action. Elsewhere amongst the carnage many Royton men had lost their lives. The shattered Battalion was withdrawn to support trenches were it lost a further 28 casualties before being removed from the battle on July 7th. They shortly afterwards were transferred to the Ypres Salient.
From September 5th half of the Battalion were engaged in work burying cable in the Brandhoek area. Again the unit war diary records nothing untoward but on the evening of September 12th Ernest Wood was mortally wounded, presumably by a shell, and died in the early hours of the following day at the 17th Casualty Clearing Station. A chaplain wrote to his sister, presumably Edith who Ernest had named as his next of kin:
"I regret to have to send you bad news concerning your brother Private E.Wood of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. He was brought into this hospital badly wounded in the head and back last evening. At the time he was unconscious, and remained so until the end. Everything possible was done by the nurses and doctors, but he passed to his reward about 3:30 this morning. It will come as a severe shock to you I know, and I feel truly sorry for your loss. I wish it were possible to say something really helpful at a time like this. But he has gone to meet the reward of those who die for an ideal. There are some things worse than death; you can but be thankful that your brother's end came in the act of duty and that, like a good and brave man, he passed hence, his duty done"
On September 14th 1918 the following appeared in the Oldham Chronicle:
In loving memory of our dear brother, Private Ernest Wood, KORL Regiment,
who was killed in action September 13, 1916. Also our dear mother who
died August 8th 1913.
Some day we hope to meet again,
Some day we know not when,
To clasp their hands in the better land,
Never to part again.
From his loving Sisters and Brothers.
94 and 210 Middleton Road, Royton
In 1922 Ernest's brother Frank and his wife Emily named their son Ernest. Sadly young Ernest died at the age of nine in 1931.
Buried together in Royton Cemetery are Ernest's mother Sarah, brothers Frank and William, his nephew Ernest and sister in law Emily.
Date of Death:13/09/1916
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Cemetery:Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery