Alfred Ernest Bagnall
Captain Alfred Ernest Bagnall MC, 1/5th Batt York and Lancaster Regt
Alfred Ernest Bagnall was born on the 13 November 1895 at 49 Midland Road Rotherham, and all his life was known as Ernest. Only son of Alfred, originally an iron moulder, later a licensee and a self-educated man, and Elizabeth Bagnall, Ernest was one of 6 children, with one younger sister, and 4 older sisters, although one of his older sisters died in infancy.
The birth certificate notes Ernest’s mother's surname as Bagnall formerly Bagnall. She was a distant cousin of her husband, and they married at St Thomas’, Kimberworth on 25 May 1885, after having produced a daughter called Hannah, and whilst Elizabeth was pregnant with Alice Maud who died in infancy.
Ernest was the apple of his mother's eye, and a postcard sent to him at the age of 7 by his mother when she visited London suggests he was spoilt.
Ernest was educated at King Edward VII School, Sheffield, a fee paying school. It is assumed that he travelled to school daily by tram and/or train. There are several photographs of Ernest kept at the school, all showing him resplendent in the uniform of the day. It is uncertain when Ernest joined the school, and it may well be that he may have been one of the first pupils in 1905, when the school was founded, after the LEA arranged and funded an amalgamation between two other schools.
The school records suggest that he did not record much academic success. This is based on the school magazine having no record of him gaining either a higher or lower school certificate, but he obviously did well at school, although he won no prizes. He later went on to Durham University as a theology student, which was unusual for that school, as most students who matriculated went to other universities.
During his school years at King Edward VII, Ernest’s main contributions to school life were as footballer and cricketer. In 1911-12 season, when he was 16 years of age, he played left half for the 1st XI at association football, and was considered to have ‘thoroughly justified his inclusion.’ Records state ‘Feeds his wing well and kicks and tackles effectively’.
In the 1912-13 season, he gained his colours, and played at inside right. He was a regular scorer. Later in the season, he played left full back, and was rather a versatile player. He became captain of the first XI for the 1913-14 season, and played centre forward, scoring regularly including at least 2 hat tricks.
A E Bagnall, First XI Team Captain (Seated in the centre of picture).
His inclusion in the cricket team seems to have commenced in 1913, when he played for the 1st XI and was a useful bowler, taking 31 wickets and 10 catches, the best result in the team. He only averaged 6 with the bat, but gained his colours.
In the 1914 season, he took 35 wickets, but performed much better with the bat, and averaged 30.7 which included 3 scores of 50.
Ernest was a member of Welbeck House, but there is no record as to whether he was ever house captain.
His name appears on the school honours board, which lists 22 Old Edwardian winners of the Military Cross.
Alfred Ernest Bagnall seated on the ground far right
Ernest matriculated at Durham as a member of St Chad's Hall in Michaelmas
1915 as an arts student, having passed his matriculation exams in July 1915, sitting papers in religious instruction, elementary mathematics, Latin and Greek. He was punctilious in his attendance at chapel and lectures during that term, not missing a day in 48, but that seems to have been his only term at Durham as he joined up to fight in the Great War. He continued to be listed as a student at the university in the annually published calendars until 1921/22 inclusive.
Ernest did not take or pass any exams for a degree. The Durham University Journal of June 1916 notes that he was in a cadet battalion in Sheffield and in December 1916 was a 2nd lieutenant in the Yorks and Lancs Regiment.
At University he joined the Durham University Contingent, Senior Officers Training Corps and from there he was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1/5 York & Lancaster Regiment, a Territorial Battalion on 5th August 1916. He first attested for the Territorial Force on 18th January 1916. His military details state he was 5ft 11 inches. He gave his address for correspondence as 30 College Road, Rotherham, the house adjacent to The Carter’s Rest Inn kept by his parents.
The character reference to support his application was given by the Rev J H
Poole, Vicar of St Michaels, Rotherham who stated he had known Ernest for
six years. Reverend Poole was a family friend, and later when he’d left Yorkshire to live in Boston, Lincs., he became one of the executors of Ernest’s father’s will.
The University of Durham published a Roll of Service 1914-1919 which cites A E Bagnall as winning the MC in 1917, being a Lieut A[cting]/Capt 1918-1919, 1/5th Yorks and Lancs Regt 1916-1919, being wounded twice in 1917 and having been a member of the university's OTC.
There are three references to Ernest in the Regimental history on the
chapter relating to the 1/5th Battalion. On 24th September 1916 the
Battalion was back in billets at St Amand where 6 officers joined from Base.
One of these was 2nd Lieut A E Bagnall. At this time the Battalion was
holding about 800 yards of line in front of Fonquevillers with Gommecourt
opposite in the German line. The actual strength was 42 officers and 840 Ors with a trench strength of 30 officers and 655 Ors. By November they were involved in the Battle of the Ancre when the British used gas bombs.
The next mention is in July 1917 when the Battalion were at this time
defending Nieuport near the Yser Canal. Here on the 21/22nd the Germans used Mustard Gas for the first time and the Battalion suffered heavy casualties - 258 Casualties including 2nd Lieut A E Bagnall.
No reference is made to him winning his Military Cross in the Regimental
History and no citation still exists for this award but it appears in the London Gazette of 18th January 1918. He appears in the Gazette as still a 2nd Lieut.
The final reference to him in the Regimental history appears in an action on
17th April 1918 when three officers (the other two were Capt Baker MC and
Captain Glenn) and 200 men were ordered to counter attack a German advance.
By then he was Lieutenant Bagnall and he was to bring on the three remaining companies. They were attacking some farms and they suffered heavy casualties before driving the Germans off. However the Germans rained down a heavy barrage and the attack could proceed no further. At 1.am on the 18th these three companies were relieved and rejoined HQ.
The only papers that survive at the National Archive are his attestation
papers for the Territorial Army in 1916, just 7 pages in all. His Medal index
card notes he was awarded an MC and shows he was awarded only the BWM and Victory medals inscribed to him as a Captain.
Alfred, Ernest's father, died of influenza on 12th November 1918, the day after the armistice was declared, when landlord of the Carter's Rest in Rotherham, something which Ernest and his family never got over. It is said Alfred died hearing the brass bands playing announcing the war end, and his last words were said to have been 'Now I know the war is over, I can die in peace'.
Ernest had wanted to be a clergyman and join the church when he joined up during WW1 and his uniform suggests he may have served in some capacity as chaplain, as there is a cross on his lapel.
Ernest’s mother Elizabeth died in 1934, and Ernest was the main executor of her will. At that time he lived in Percy Street, Rotherham. He subsequently moved to Morthen Road, Wickersley, before moving to Boswell Street, which is the address at which he lived when he died in Rotherham hospital in 1955.
As a result of what he saw in the war, Ernest gave up any interest in the church, and also his belief in God, as he felt that a compassionate God would not have allowed the suffering he witnessed, on either side.
He was a prominent freemason, and in 1951 was Worshipful master of the Phoenix Lodge. He was chief wages clerk to the Borough Treasurer's Department at Rotherham Council for many years, working there for over 30.
Given his school record, it is not surprising that at one time he played football for Rotherham amateurs and that he was also passionate about cricket. He was a keen motorist, and was married to Gladys Waite, whose family were a well known furniture removal company. They had no children, which was a regret he carried throughout his life.
He died of a heart attack on 28 February 1955, having been admitted to Rotherham hospital with breathing difficulties, a problem he suffered with as a result of having been subjected to mustard gas, along with 8 others of his regiment, in the trenches in France in 1918. He is buried in Masbrough Cemetery.
His obituaries in the local press say that he was awarded the military cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was a sub-lieutenant at the time, and the action took place on the battle front in France. One newspaper cutting states the official citation records that when he was the only officer in his section left alive, he organised and lead all the men he could muster in an attack against an enemy strongpoint. When this was unsuccessful, he withdrew his force from fire.
Probate granted to the executors upon Ernest’s death state he left a figure in excess of £7,000, which was a considerable sum in 1955.
When his wife, Gladys died, all his effects and hers were sold with the expressed desire that all money received go to an animal sanctuary. As a result, valuable photos and effects were lost to the family.