b. 10/11/1897 Longton, Stoke, Staffordshire. d. 14/02/1966 Blythe Bridge, Staffordshire.
Ernest Albert Egerton (1897-1966) was born at Meir Lane, Caverswall, Longton, near Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire on 10th November 1897. His father, Thomas Henry Egerton, was a potter’s engine fitter. He married Sarah Ann Keay on Christmas Day 1886 at St Michael’s, Stone, Staffordshire. They were living in Meir Lane by 1891. Thomas then became a die fitter as well as a potter’s engine fitter. Sadly, Ernest’s mother died when he was three in 1900, and his father remarried in 1902 to Annie Baxter. Ernest had six siblings, all born to his father and his mother. His father had no children with Annie.
Ernest was educated at Queen Street School, Cooke Street School and Blurton Church School near Longton. He was employed by Florence Coal and Iron Company, Longton as a haulage hand, but he declared he was a miner when he enlisted in 3rd North Staffordshire at Shelton on 27th November 1915. He joined at Lichfield on 28th November and underwent basic training at Wallsend-on-Tyne from 1st December. He was promoted Lance Corporal but was reduced to Private on 29th May 1916 for being drunk and creating a disturbance at 9.30pm roll call at Forest Hall. On 21st October he was allocated to 1st North Staffordshire and arrived at 12th Infantry Base Depot, Boulogne, France on 23rd October. He transferred to 16th Sherwood Foresters on 8th November and joined the Battalion on the 11th.
Ernest was admitted to 131st and 129th Field Ambulance with diarrhoea on 14th January 1917 and return to the Battalion next day. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 21st February and admitted to hospital with pain the next day. He was promoted to Corporal on 23rd August.
On 20th September 1917 southeast of Ypres, Belgium: during an attack, visibility was bad owing to fog and smoke. As a result, the two leading waves of the attack passed over certain hostile dugouts without clearing them and enemy rifles and machine-guns from these dugouts were inflicting severe casualties. Corporal Egerton at once responded to a call for volunteers to help in clearing up the situation and he dashed for the dugouts under heavy fire at short range. He shot a rifleman, a bomber and a gunner, by which time support had arrived and 29 of the enemy surrendered.
Ernest was granted leave in England 1st-5th December, extended to the 19th by the War Office. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th December 1917. He arrived at Stoke Station on 8th December and was met by the Mayor, Alderman WE Robinson, and taken for lunch at the North Stafford Hotel. He was then escorted by the Mayor and Deputy by train to Longton. He was carried shoulder high through a cheering crowd to an open carriage for a triumphal tour of the town. He left for Manchester on the 11th, and onto London on the 14th to go back to the front.
He returned to France and was gassed at Heudicourt, France on 21st March 1918. He was admitted to 132nd Field Ambulance with anaemia and an inflamed arm. He was promoted to Sergeant in May 1918. He left France on 20th August for officer training and that evening was presented with an illuminated testimonial at Longton Town Hall by the Mayor. A total of £262/9/3 had been raised by the townsfolk, of which £24 was handed over to Ernest. The Mayor presented with a further £39 that evening and the balance of £200 was retained for the future. He decided against taking a commission and was held by No 1 Reception Battalion at Ripon until joining 3rd Battalion at Sunderland as an instructor on 15th October.
Ernest married Elsie May Gimbert on 1st September 1918 at Forsbrook Parish Church and they lived at 105 Chapel View, Blythe Bridge. They went on to have three daughters: Dorothy (born 1919), Sylvia (born 1925) and Margaret (born 1930). Ernest was troubled by tuberculosis in the latter stages of the war, and was admitted to Sunderland War Hospital on 19th February 1919 and spent time in a sanitorium in Staffordshire. As a result he was discharged on 25th April 1919, unfit for further military service and was assessed as 100% disabled. He was awarded the Silver War Badge.
Ernest retrained under the Ministry of Pensions at Preston Hall, Aylesford, Kent as a gamekeeper and the outdoor life aided his recovery. He settled at Leigh, near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire and became an agent for a firm marketing ex-servicemen’s handicrafts. This was not a success, and his old headmaster got him a job as a bus conductor with the Potteries Electric Traction Company. He became an inspector in 1928. During the Second World War he served in the Local Defence Volunteers and later the Home Guard.
He worked as a security officer for Rootes Aircraft Works at Blythe Bridge and was later a lodge man for The Staffordshire Potteries, Meir Heath for 14 years. He died at his home at 350 Uttoxeter Road, Blythe Bridge, Staffordshire on 14th February 1966 and was buried in St Peter’s Churchyard, Forsbrook, Blythe Bridge. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. After he died, his family presented the VC to the Regiment and it is held at the Sherwood Foresters Museum, Nottingham Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SHERWOOD FORESTERS MUSEUM, NOTTINGHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PETERS CHURCHYARD, BLYTHE BRIDGE, STAFFORDSHIRE.
Ernest Egerton's medals including VC on display at the Sherwood Foresters Museum, Nottingham Castle (February 2014).
War Illustrated, 5th January 1918
Uttoxeter Road, Blythe Bridge, Staffordshire
Updated medal display September 2016 (Brian Drummond)
A bus named in honour of Ernest Egerton VC in Stoke on Trent (courtesy of Robert Kennedy)
Stone unveiled in Blythe Bridge on 20th September 2017
Stoke on Trent