Captain Ernest Herschell was a big personality: he was physically strong, well-educated, successful in business, well-liked and a talented rugby-player. Interestingly, he is another of our local casualties with German ancestry. His father was Adolph Herschell (1830-1913), who came to Hull from Germany in about 1855. He eventually settled in Liverpool and made his money in the African trade. His wife was Anne Emerson (born c.1841 in London). The couple married in Marylebone in 1870.
Anne’s family were also successful business people, involved in silk manufacture and international trade. Adolph and Anne eventually settled in Beresford Road in Oxton. They had five children – Arnold, Jane, Bertha, Ernest and Edith. In 1891 Ernest was a boarder at Amersham Hall School in Caversham, just north of Reading. The school had been founded by Ebenezer West in 1829 “for the sons of dignified gentlemen”.
Doubtless it was here that he learned to play rugby – the sport which he grew to love and to play very well at a high level. He became a member of the Birkenhead Park Club.
Someone calling himself C.C. wrote Ernest’s eulogy which appeared in The Birkenhead News of 30th September 1916: “Captain Ernest Herschell was a great rugby player. As a forward he stood high among his fellows in the middle of the nineties … For ten successive years he was in the list of prominent men north of the Trent … with ‘Flapper’ Herschell in the scrum it was much more healthy to be on his side than against him. He was a deadly tackler, and when he got the ball tucked under his arm and set the pace it was almost more than mortal man could do to bring him down.” He said that Ernest played for the North against the South at Exeter in 1897, in 1898 at Newcastle and in 1905 at Birkenhead. He also played against the New Zealand All Blacks in that year. He played cricket for Oxton, but “rugby was his code”. His brother Arnold was a famous tennis player.
By 1911, Ernest was married to Bertha Mary and living on Heron Road in Meols; the couple had a seven-month old baby called Winifred Mary and employed two servants – Maud Edith Partington from Beaumaris and Elizabeth Derbyshire of Liverpool. Ernest was doing well in business – he was a managing director for a firm of forwarding agents, called R.H. Morgan and Co. Ltd., which specialised in trade with South America. Ernest had worked for some time in Argentina, where he was probably able to keep up his rugby. He probably spoke Spanish, which is why his house was named Buen Orden, meaning “good order”.
C.C. went on to comment about Ernest’s military career: “Having passed his fortieth year, he could have kept out of the war, but his old love to be where the strife was hottest, and his great patriotism, forced him to leave his family and home for the trenches, and he joined the Liverpool Regiment”. The 1/6th Battalion was a territorial unit which became part of the 165th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division. He was promoted from lieutenant to the temporary rank of captain on 16th November 1914, interestingly at the same time as another German-sounding officer – Charles E. Wurtzburg. The 55th Division relieved the 11th (Northern) Division on the Somme front 25th July 1916, in the area facing Guillemont. It took part in the Battles of Flers-Courcelette between 17th and 22nd September and Morval between 25th and 28th September. The Book of Remembrance says that he died at Flers. C.C. said, “Today he lies low, but I’ll warrant he did his duty. Ernest Herschell was a good fellow, and as a sportsman he could take hard knocks as generously as he gave them to his opponents , and many a hundred men had cause to remember him when his springing footsteps were prancing the enclosure of a Rugby field. Those of us who knew him are sorry for his end. Some day, perchance, I may recall the lighter side of his genial nature. At the moment we bow to the severance, and salute the name and record of one who did his bit for King and country.”
Ernest’s parents lived well into their 80’s and are buried in West Kirby. The family grave is in Grange Hill Cemetery, but , sadly, it has not been maintained and is difficult to read. It is pictured below.
Birth: June 1875
Death: 26th September 1916 aged 41
Addresses: 29 Beresford Road, Oxton (81-01), Buen Orden, 21 Heron Road, Meols (11)
Occupation: Managing Director of a Firm of Forwarding Agents, Engaged in the South American Trade
Unit: 6th Bn. King’s (Liverpool Regiment)
Number: and Rank Captain
Medals: 14/15 Star, British War and Victory
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H. GHC, France: Somme, Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbé IV. G. 38.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, Prob.,BN, LE, GB, LG, Census: 81, 91, 01, 11
JOHN CLIFFORD HILTON
John Hilton was another soldier who belonged to a typical Merseyside lower middle class family of the day. His father was also called John; he was born in Lancaster in about 1851. His mother was Louisa Day, who was born in Great Crosby in about 1854. They married in about 1871. John senior was a ship’s steward. All of his children were born in Great Crosby and most of them eventually worked as clerks in various Liverpool commercial firms.
By 1911, the family was residing in a modest but comfortable seven-roomed terraced house on Manor Road in Hoylake. By that time, John senior was dead and only three of the children were still living at home – Ada Eveline, Winifred Gabrielle and John Junior. Hubert Frank Gunns, an assistant teacher in a local council school, who came from Norfolk, was lodging with the family. When John joined the army in 1914, he reported that he only had three sisters left alive – Florence, Gertrude and Winifred.
John joined the Liverpool Pals on 4th September 1914 in Liverpool . He was noted as being 5’1” tall, weighing 127 lbs and having a 36” chest with a 2½” expansion; he had fair skin and hair and blue eyes. He was a member of the Church of England. John remained in the U.K. with his battalion until 6th November 1915 – a total of one year and 64 days. He was promoted to lance corporal on 19th September 1914 and full corporal on 4th March 1915, but was demoted to private on 8th June 1915 at his own request. He probably felt ashamed of getting into trouble two days earlier, when, at Belton Park Camp in Lincolnshire, he went absent without leave from 11.45 pm until the following morning’s tattoo, for which he was “severely reprimanded”. However, he did not learn from his mistake because, whilst at Lark Hill on Salisbury Plain, he overstayed his pass by 29½ hours on 14th August (for which he was confined to barracks for ten days) and for 15 hours on 2nd October.
He arrived in France on 7th November 1915. By the time he was killed, he had served for a year and 336 days. The 19th Liverpools became part of 89th Brigade, 30th Division, along with the other Liverpool Pals Battalions. On 30th July 1916 they were ordered to capture the village of Guillemont at the southern end of the Somme Front. The 19th and 20th Battalions formed up in White Horse Trench and went over the top at 04.45. Morning fog hindered accurate British artillery fire. When the fog began to clear, the Merseysiders were picked off by enemy machinegun fire. Hundreds were killed and wounded, including the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel G. Rollo. A lieutenant Lewis was left in charge. Eventually, an orchard on the edge of Guillemont was captured, but not the village itself. The battle was effectively over by 11.00. The allies had advanced 300 yards at a terrible cost – 1,115 Liverpool Pals lay dead or wounded. Of these, the 19th Battalion lost 11 officers and 435 other ranks, of whom nine officers and 184 other ranks, including John Hilton, died.
Either John’s body was never identified or his grave, along with so many others, was destroyed by later artillery fire, which is why his is one of the 72,203 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing. Upon the first anniversary of the Battle of Guillemont, the Liverpool Echo contained two columns of family tributes to loved ones who died with the Liverpool Pals. One reads: “To the glorious and proud memory of John Clifton Hilton, 19th K.L.R., surviving son of Mrs Hilton, Manor-road, Hoylake, who sacrificed his life for his country and fell in the Battle of the Somme, July 30, 1916.”
Birth: September 1885 in Crosby, Liverpool
Death: 30th July 1916 killed in action aged 30
Addresses: 9 Victoria Road, Great Crosby (91), 28 Rossett Road, Great Crosby (01), 11 Manor Road, Hoylake (11) 54 Manor Road, Hoylake (16)
Occupations: Merchant’s Clerk (01), Manufacturer’s Agent (11), Produce Broker (14)
Unit: 19th Bn. The King’s (Liverpool Regiment)
Number: and Rank 21512
Medals: 14/15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: H. France: Somme, Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 1D, 8B and 8C
Sources BR, CWGC, SDGW, SR, MC, LE, GB, Census: 91, 01, 11
Kenneth belonged to a prosperous Merseyside business family. His parents were Charles Arthur, who was born in Tranmere in about 1864, and Margaret Mabel, who was born in Oxton in about 1871. In 1901, the family was living in Birkenhead and in 1911 in a ten-roomed house on Caldy Road in West Kirby. By the time of Kenneth’s death, they were living on Riversdale Road in West Kirby. In 1901, Kenneth’s father was a cotton salesman and described as a “worker”, but by 1911, he was a “Cotton Merchant” and an employer. He had clearly been doing well in business. Further evidence for this is the fact that he employed one domestic servant in 1901 and two in 1911. Unfortunately, we do not know anything about Kenneth’s early life, but he ended up working for his father as a cotton merchant.
Upon the declaration of war, Kenneth joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a private, and arrived in France on 23rd July 1915. According to his medal card, he was commissioned into the 1st Battalion The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) on 22nd November 1916. The Book of Remembrance corroborates this, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records say that he was in the 5th Battalion , but died in a trench raid near Bouchavesnes while “attached to the 1st Battalion. “
Kenneth’s estate was valued at £83 2s and passed to his father on 16th May 1917. At some point, his mother moved to 16 Park Road, West Kirby.
Birth: December 1895
Death: 3rd February 1917 aged 21
Addresses: 17 Marlborough Grove, Birkenhead (01), Kirby View, Caldy Road, West Kirby (11), 13 Riversdale Road, West Kirby (17)
Occupations: Cotton Broker in Father’s firm, Hinde Philips and Co. Ltd. Of Liverpool
Unit: Royal Army Medical Corps, 1st and/or 5th Bn. The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Number and Ranks: 31828 Private, Lieutenant
Medals:14/15 Star, Victory, British War
Commemorated and Buried: WK. France: Somme, Hem Farm Military Cemetery, Hem-Monacu II. G. 24.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, LE, GB, Census: 01, 11