Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Ernest CHEESEMAN (of Teynham)
d. 28th March 1918. Aged 37
Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
[Formerly G/24795, 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment]
Remembered with Honour
Killed in Action
Ernest Cheeseman came from an extensive Teynham family of over three generations. His grandfather, John, set up a boot and shoesmith business on Greenstreet, Lynsted Parish side. That business was taken up by his eldest son, William, of whom more is said below.
John Thomas and Maria Elizabeth (nee Sills), was a brickfield labourer raising six children in Teynham. Ernest's three elder siblings were Edith M, James, and Harriett; his two younger siblings were Charles and Rosea.
In 1909, Ernest married Elizabeth Ruth (nee Tomlin), and they set up home at 7 French's Cottages, Barrow Green, Teynham. They appear in the 1911 census with their the first of three children. Their children were Elsie Ruth (b. 19th August 1908), Nellie May (b. 10th September 1911), and Ernest Allen (b. 27th April 1913).
In 1911, Ernest appears in the census as an agricultural labourer. By the time of his enlistment in 1917, Ernest gave his employment as a "fruit foreman". His surviving records describe him as 5 feet and 10 inches tall, weighing 140 lbs. His chest of 36" showed expansion of 3". He was described as "Good" physical development, fit for service, Class A. One minor defect of "left varicocele" (a pronounced 'varicose' vein in left testicle), insufficient to cause rejection. He served for 1 year and 37 days.
The passing of Ernest and his Memorial Service were carried in local newspapers.
The East Kent Gazette of 27th April 1918: PRIVATE E. CHEESEMAN, ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT. Mrs. Elizabeth Cheeseman, of Barrow Green, Teynham, has received the sad intelligence that her husband, Private Ernest Cheeseman, of the Royal West Kent Regiment, has been killed in action in France. The news was conveyed to her in the following letter:- "Dear Mrs. Cheeseman, - It is with much regret that I write to inform you that your husband, Private E. Cheeseman, has been killed in action. It will, I am sure, be a little satisfaction to you to know that your husband had been ‘straffing' the Hun very freely, and was killed at his post very gallantly keeping the traditions of the regiment. I, as his platoon officer, shall miss him very much, and offering you my sincere sympathy, I also include the same from his comrades in the platoon."
The letter, which is written by Second-Lieutenant J.S. Deeth, concludes with the promise that more particulars will be sent later. Private Cheeseman was well known at Teynham. He had been in the employ of Messrs. W. French and Sons, at Barrow Green, since he was a boy and was greatly respected. He was 37 years of age. He joined the Middlesex Regiment on February 20th, 1917, and proceeded to France in the following May, and was attached to the Royal West Kents. He fought in France and in Italy, and came back to France again where he was killed as stated.
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 27th April 1918: TEYNHAM AND LYNSTED MEN
Three more names have to be added to the list of Teynham and Lynsted men who have died gallantly for their country, namely, those of Private Ernest Cheeseman, Royal West Kent Regiment; Lance-Corporal Joseph Henry Ray, Sussex Regiment; and Private Albert Edward Hadlow, West Surrey Regiment. The two last named were about the same age, and were formerly in the choir together at Teynham Church.
Private Cheeseman was a married man, whose home was at Barrow Green, where he leaves a wife and three little children. He was 38 years of age and was for many years in the employ of the late Mr. William French, and afterwards Mr. Percy French. He joined up in February last year and went to France in May. In August he was wounded but was not brought over. Later he went to Italy, and he had not been long back in France when he was killed on March 28th. His platoon officer writes that he died gallantly at his post, freely strafing the Huns. The officer adds that he was "one of the best" and would be greatly missed by himself and his comrades.
The Faversham and North East Kent News reported on 4th May 1918: "MEMORIAL SERVICE AT TEYNHAM. There was a very large congregation at Teynham Parish Church on Sunday evening last, when the death of four men on active service was commemorated, viz., Privates G. Potts, E. Cheeseman, A.E. Hadlow and Lance-Corporal Joseph Ray. The Vicar read prayers and the sermon was preached by Mr. F. Honeyball. Gunner Rickards, of the Conyer garrison, took the organ and played the Dead March at the close of the service."
On enlistment for General Service on 20th February 1917, Ernest gave his age as 36 years, 295 days. He enlisted at Canterbury and was posted on 22nd February into the 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment as Private G/24795. He received his training in the 5th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, until he left England.
On 5th May 1917, Ernest arrived in France to join the B.E.F. Ernest found his way to the 41st Infantry Base Depot [Étaples], initially into the 18th Battalion, Middlesex. Only a few days later, on 22nd May, Ernest was transferred to the 11th Battalion, Royal West Kents, ready to serve on the Western Front. These transfers were common-place. He went on to serve for a short period in Italy before returning to France to serve in the 6th Battalion, Royal West Kents in which he was serving when he was killed.
The German Spring Offensive was anticipated once the weather began to warm up and the Eastern Front troops had found their way to the Western Front. Prisoners confirmed this expectation. Neither the date, nor the extent of that opening attack was certain. Brigades and Divisions prepared themselves by intensive programmes of counter-attack training and improvements in trenches in depth. The opening attack took place on the SOMME Front, initially to the south of Ernest and his comrades but very quickly expanding to engulf the Front where the 6th Battalion was in Reserve. The wider Front extended to ARRAS, by 28th March 1918.
When Ernest was drafted into the 6th Battalion, he was joining at a time of consolidation and preparation at the Front. Initially, the Battalion operated in the northern sector around Bethune but once the German attack opened to the South, the Battalion was moved swiftly South, as shown in the War Diary for March 1918:
1st March: SAILLY-SUR-LA-LYS. The Battalion inspected by the Commander-in-chief.
2nd March: The Battalion relieved 7th Battalion Norfolk Regiment in Brigade Reserve to the BOIS GRENIER Sector. Relief completed 4 p.m. Battalion H.Q. in FLEURBAIX. Draft of 4 O.R.s joined the Battalion.
3rd March: FLEURBAIX. Lewis gun classes commenced. Church parade (R.C.)
4th March: Companies organizing a raiding party consisting of 1 Officer and 50 O.R.s per Company under Captain C.J. Ashton.
5th March: Working Parties found to improve trenches for use of raiding party. Raiding party attends lecture at 11 a.m. at Divisional Theatre SAILLY and commences training over taped trenches at 2 p.m. Lewis gun classes.
6th March: Training of raiding party continues. Lewis gun classes.
7th March: Raiding party practice over taped trenches 10 a.m. – 12 noon and from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. FLEURBAIX bombarded with gas shells from 9.30 p.m. – 10 p.m. No casualties.
8th March: Practice over taped trenches by raiding party witnessed by XV Corps Commander. A draft of 12 O.R.s joined Battalion.
9th March: Raiding troops moved up into assembly positions. Zero 5.30 a.m. Enemy's trenches (INDEX TRENCH & INDEX SUPPORT) raided with complete success. Artillery box-barrage very effective. We took 9 prisoners (1 wounded) and 1 machine gun. It is estimated that 50 of the enemy were killed. Casualties: Killed on O.R. Wounded Captain C.J. Ashton (before zero) and 18 O.R.s, including 9 O.R.s at duty. A draft of 11 O.R.s joined the Battalion. On completion of raid, the raiding party returned to billets in FLEURBAIX.
10th March: FLEURBAIX. The Battalion relieved 6th Queens Regiment on the left of the BOIS GRENIER Sector. Relief completed 10.15 p.m. Battalion H.Q. I.19.C.50.90.
11th March: TRENCHES. BOIS GRENIER Sector. About 5.30 a.m. after an intense bombardment lasting 45 minutes, a party of the enemy numbering 4 officers and 190 O.R.s raided PATRICK and KIWI POSTS. Six of our men are missing. We captured two of the enemy (one dead) and a machine gun. A large amount of equipment and several rifles were left behind by the raiders. The enemy shelled our defences consistently the whole day with guns of all calibres. Total casualties, one O.R. Killed. Wounded, 2nd Lieut. J.H. HUGHES and 13 O.R.s including one at duty and 6 O.R.s missing. Our artillery active throughout the night.
12th March: Spasmodic shooting by enemy artillery. A certain amount of gas shell used. Our artillery bombarded enemy's back areas and assembly positions throughout night. Casualties 2 O.R.s wounded.
13th March: A quiet day. Work centred on construction of flank defences to Front Line posts. Our artillery again bombarded enemy's back areas and assembly positions during the night. Casualties Nil.
14th March: Ground in 19 A&B spasmodically shelled mainly with 77 mm's. Work continued on Front Line posts by night. Casualties Nil. A draft of 2 O.R.'s joined.
15th March: A quiet day. Casualties Nil. Raid carried out by Left Division at 10.7 p.m. No retaliation on the Battalion Front.
16th March: PENSAM POST & JOCKS JOY heavily bombarded about 6.30 p.m. for half an hour. Work continued on Front Line posts. Casualties 2 O.R. (one self-inflicted).
17th March: STANWAY AVENUE & POST heavily bombarded about 5.30 p.m. Otherwise a quiet day. Casualties 2 O.R. killed 4 O.R. wounded.
18th March: Enemy attempted to raid our posts about 11 p.m. Hostile party estimated at 20-30 driven off by Lewis guns and rifle fire. Another hostile raiding party evidently intending to raid our lines was met in No-mans-land by a raiding party of 6th Queen's Regiment and driven back. SHAFTESBURY AVENUE at its junction with CHARING CROSS was entirely destroyed by bombardment with 5.9". Numerous hostile O.B.s [Observation Balloons] up all day. Casualties: 1 O.R. wounded.
19th March: Day passed quietly. About 11 p.m. heavy hostile barrage descended on our Front & Support Line. The Subsidiary Line also came in for attention. No infantry action followed. Considerable shelling of back areas by night. Casualties 6 O.R.s wounded.
20th March: The Battalion relieved in the trenches on night of 19th/20th March by 2/5th King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (57th Division). Relief completed 2.45 a.m. Wet night. On relief, Battalion marched to PONT DE NIEPPE. The day spent in resting and cleaning up. A draft of 3 O.R.s joined the Battalion.
21st March: PONT DE NIEPPE. A working party of 5 Officer and 300 O.R.s found for work on Company (?) Defences under R.E. Supervision. The rendezvous of the party was shelled. Casualties 2 O.R.s killed 13 O.R.s wounded including 3 at duty and 2 O.R.s attached 87th Company R.W. Bombing and Lewis Gun classes commenced.
22nd March: Working party found for work on Company(?) Defences. Strength 5 Officers, 300 O.R.s. News of the much advertised German Offensive in the South.
23rd March: Usual working party of 5 Officers & 300 O.R.s Warning orders received for the Battalion to move tomorrow to BUSNES area. Surplus kit dumped at DOULIEU. A draft of 124 O.R.s joined also 2nd Lieut. W.G. BIRCH & 2nd Lieut. J.C. Bell.
24th March: PONT DE NIEPPE. The Battalion left billets at 6.30 a.m. & marched to LA VERRIER where it "embussed." The Battalion "debussed" on OBLINGHEM – BETHUNE ROAD and marched to FOUQUIERS. Reported in billets 3 p.m. Orders received for Battalions to "embuss" at 9 p.m. for ALBERT Area. Travelling all night.
25th March: FOUQUIERS-BOUZINCOURT. The battalion "debussed" near BOUZINCOURT about 8 a.m. Fighting order donned. The Battalion proceeded to Camp East of BOUZINCOURT and awaiting orders. Left Camp at 5 p.m. to take up line South of BAZENTIN-LE-GRAND. On the march, news received that enemy were working round POZIERES and THIEPVAL. The Battalion ordered to attack POZIERES in conjunction with 6th Queens Regiment. Attack cancelled and Battalion ordered to take up [26th March: Near AVELUY] outposts line in X.6. Orders later received for all troops to withdraw to WEST of River ANCRE.
The Battalion formed Rear Guard to troops of 47th Division and oddments of various units. Withdrawal of Battalion commenced at 5 a.m. and was successfully carried out. Line taken up approximately Railway Line from W.5.Central to N.E. edge of AVELUY WOOD.
27th March: AVELUY WOOD. The enemy heavily attacked our line about 9.30 p.m. He was completely repulsed on "B" Company's front but succeeded in entering our line on "A" Company's front and penetrated the wood. An immediate counter-attack drove out the enemy and succeeded in restoring our line. Many casualties were inflicted upon the enemy.
28th March: AVELUY WOOD. About 9.30 a.m. the enemy made a further determined attack. He was able to bring enfilade fire upon our Right Company ("B" Company) which under heavy shelling was forced to give ground temporarily. A spirited counter-attack drove back the enemy and later in the day our original line was regained.
29th March: MARTINSART WOOD. The Battalion was relieved by a composite Battalion of 99th Infantry Brigade. Relief completed 2 a.m. The Battalion then proceeded to MARTINSART WOOD and took over Front Line in W.9.C. from 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiments. Relief completed 3.45 a.m. About 7.30 p.m. the enemy made a feeble effort to attack and was repulsed. Lieut-Col W.R.A. Dawson, D.S.O. again wounded. The Battalion was relieved by 17th Battalion London Regiment and marched to WARLOY-BAILLON. Relief completed 11.30 p.m. and arrival in billets reported 2.30 a.m. Casualties for period 26th-29th 11 O.R.s Killed, 74 O.R.s wounded, and 25 O.R.s missing. 2 Officers wounded. Lieut D.R. BROOK wounded 28th inst.
30th March: Resting. Very wet.
31st March: Church Parade. Raining hard.
Ernest Cheeseman was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals.
Click on image for larger version
- Ernest's sister, Rosea, was married to Frederick James Bolton a Dartford man, who died in Mesopotamia (31st December 1916). As he was not a local man, there is no local commemoration.
- Ernest's cousin, William Frederick, enlisted at Sittingbourne, to serve as a Private in the 1/8th (T.F.) Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment. He lost his life on 15th September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He was buried at Combles, aged 24.
Family photograph (provided by John and Marion Cook): During one of our Society's Open History Days, we were shown this photograph of William Frederick's oldest brother (Leonard) and their father (William). Between them, they carried on the boot and shoesmithing business in Greenstreet, Lynsted side. They were carrying on with the business first established by William, senior, and his father, John. At the same time, cousin Ernest was an agricultural labourer and he had moved on to become a fruit foreman in Teynham/Barrow Green at the time when he enlisted. Ernest would have known about the loss of his cousin during the Somme before he went on to enlist.
William Frederick's death was not Commemorated in Teynham because his father had moved his business to Rainham by the time when War Memorials were being erected - in the 1920's. His name appears on the Rainham Memorial.