b. 27/01/1883 Brighton, Sussex. d. 22/03/1918 St Leger, France.
Ernest Frederick Beal (1883-1918) was the eldest son of John James William Beal and Jane "Jennie" nee Dowsing born on the 27th January 1883. He had seven siblings. He was an active participant in the 13th Boys Brigade in Brighton. He attended Brighton Grammar School, and following that he worked in his father’s stationary shop, and lived with his family at 148 Lewes Road, Brighton.
On 22nd September 1914, at the age of 29, he enlisted as a Trooper in the 2/1 Sussex Yeomanry. By the 11th June 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant and was posted on the 10th September to the 1/1st Sussex Yeomanry serving in the Balkans. Still with the rank of Sergeant, he transferred to the 16th Royal Sussex Regiment on the 16th December 1916. He served with his new unit on the Western Front. He was recommended for a commission and was finally transferred to the 3rd Yorkshire Regiment on 25th September 1917 and posted a month later to the D Company 13th (Service) Battalion.
In early 1918, he became engaged to May Bundy who lived at 37 Crescent Road, Brighton. Sadly, they would never get the opportunity to wed, as on the 21st-22nd March 1918 at St Leger, France, Ernest would be killed performing his VC action.
He was in command of a company detailed to occupy a certain section of trench. When the company was established, it was found that a considerable gap of about 400 yards existed between the left flank of the company and the neighbouring unit, and that this gap was strongly held by the enemy. It was of vital importance that the gap should be cleared, but no troops were then available. Organising a small party of less than a dozen men, he led them against the enemy. On reaching an enemy machine gun, 2nd Lt. Beal immediately sprang forward, and with his revolver killed the team and captured the gun. Continuing along the trench he encountered and dealt with another machine gun in the same manner, and in all captured four enemy guns, and inflicted severe casualties. Later in the evening, when a wounded man had been left in the open under heavy enemy fire, he, regardless of danger, walked up close to an enemy machine gun and brought in the wounded man on his back. 2nd Lt. Beal was killed by a shell on the following morning.
Sadly, Ernest’s body was not recovered and he is named on the Arras Memorial to the Missing. His VC was presented to his parents at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 3rd July 1918. Also, as a former member of the Boys Brigade, an award was presented to a member of the Brighton Boys Brigade who was most proficient. In addition, Brighton Corporation presented his parents with an illuminated address which conveyed their sympathy. On this occasion it was pointed out that Ernest was the first man from Brighton to receive the VC.
At one time the medals were owned by his fiancée, May Bundy, before passing to his brother, Harold. In 1964, Harold wrote to the Green Howards Museum at Richmond, and in 1966 presented them on permanent loan. They are still in the possession of the Museum, having been donated fully in 1973.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM, RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON ARRAS MEMORIAL, FRANCE. BAY 5
Ernest Beal VC has no known grave. He is named on the Arras Memorial. His name is right at the bottom (April 2017)
Ernest Beal's medals on display at the Green Howards Museum, Richmond
(Picture - Andrew Swan).
Unveiled in Brighton, 16th March 2018