The following biography was written by Victoria Doran with small additions by Stephen Roberts:
ERNEST VICTOR INGHAM
Ernest Victor Ingham (1887 – 1916) was born in West Kirby early in 1887. Although he claimed to be Church of England when he enlisted, he was not baptised at St Bridget. In fact, at least on his father’s side, he came from a long line of Wesleyans. However his parents and two of his sisters were buried at St Bridget, West Kirby, and Ernest is remembered on the grave marker. However at the time of his mother’s death on 1905, St Bridget was the only graveyard in the West Kirby area, so other denominations were also buried there.
His parents were Jeremiah Ingham (1850-1920) and Mary Cook (1852-1905), both of whom were from Blackburn, Lancashire, and whose families had lived in that area for many generations. They married in 1872 and their first 2 children were born in Blackburn. The remaining eight children were all born in West Kirby. His paternal grandfather, Joshua Ingham, having started out as a tailor like his own father, quickly switched to licensed victualler, and it was in that capacity that the Ingrams first arrived in Wirral. Some time in the 1870s, Joshua became the landlord of the Stanley Hotel, Hoylake, and when he died there in 1879 his wife Jane continued to run it with the help of some of her children. Jane died in 1882, but by then Jeremiah had set up as a wine & spirit merchant in Grange Road, West Kirby, having originally worked as a railway clerk. Joshua left almost £1500, but this must have passed to his offspring as Jane only left £27. Jane was from a family of cotton weavers and was illiterate at her marriage.
Ernest was the third of five sons, and the seventh child in the family. The next sister (Ethel) died in infancy, but the remainder all reached adulthood. The family were upwardly mobile, and seem to have had a Protestant work ethic. Jeremiah was sufficiently prosperous to send Ernest to Calday Grange Grammar School, and presumably the other sons also went there. The daughters must have been educated as well as Ernest’s sister Hilda May Ingham, having started as a coal merchant’s clerk at age 15, became a teacher, and it seems as though, together with sister Elizabeth Jane, the 2 sisters set up and ran Penshurst, a private school in Kings Avenue, Meols after the War. Certainly every daughter was expected to work, even though by the time they were old enough, the family was middle class. It is possible that his mother’s health was poor, as by 1891 her unmarried sister Ann Cook was part of the household, initially as a general servant, but later as housekeeper.
Jeremiah was a man of parts as by 1901 the family was living at 26 North Road, West Kirby and he was described as an Estate Agent & Surveyor. By 1905 the family had moved to The Dunes, Egbert Road, Meols and he described himself as an architect & surveyor. Presumably he was entirely self taught in the necessary skills.
After attending Calday Grange Grammar School, Ernest trained as a carpenter, like his older brothers John and William. There is no trace of him at the 1911 census, so, perhaps, he was on holiday abroad.
On 6 November 1914, the Deeside Advertiser published a list of all the local men already serving with the colours. This was possibly the push that caused Ernest to enlist in the army the following day at Liverpool. He joined the 20th (4th City) Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment as a private. He was 5ft 3.5 in tall, with a 37 in chest, grey blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.
The Cap Badge Worn by members of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) or Liverpool Pals. It was made of silver and awarded to the Pals by their founder, Lord Derby, in 1914.
On 25 August 1915 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, but reverted to Private at his own request less than a month later. On 7 November 1915 he arrived in France with his Battalion. On 9th June 1916 he was again promoted to Lance Corporal, his rank when he was killed in action at Guillemont, during the Battle of the Somme.
The brother lying in hospital was probably his youngest brother Alan Ingham. Alan had enlisted in the Kings Liverpool Regiment as a regular soldier in February 1914, and is listed in the Deeside Advertiser of 6 November 1914. He was a Sergeant when he was discharged with a Silver War Badge in July 1918 due to his wounds.
Ernest fell on 30th July 1916. This was a momentous day in the history of the Battle of the Somme and in the history of the Liverpool Pals Battalions. Ernest’s battalion (the 20th or 4th City Battalion) was part of 89th Brigade, 30th Division, of which, at this time, the 17th and 19th (1st and 3rd City Battalions) were also part. Their experiences are superbly well described on pages 114 to 124 of the indispensable Liverpool Pals by the late Graham Maddocks (Pen and Sword, 1991), which the reader is advised to consult in order to obtain a more detailed picture of the battle.
Maddocks tells us that 30th July 1916 was a “black day” in the history of the Liverpool Pals: over 460 men from the three battalions involved in the battle died. Ernest’s battalion lost 16 officers and 350 men, of whom nine officers and 137 men were killed. Ernest was one of them. Many would have fallen and lain wounded in Noman’s Land, too far away from their comrades to be rescued. Their bodies would have been reduced to unrecognisable pulp in the summer sun and under repeated artillery fire. That is why so many of the Pals’ names, including Ernest’s, are inscribed on the awe-inspiring Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, which bears 72,192 names.
In the popular imagination, this appalling massacre of so many precious young Merseysiders and others was the inevitable consequence of so many “untrained” troops being sent into “futile attacks” by “incompetent” commanders. Of course, the truth is much more complex than that. Firstly, even though the Pals were civilians, who had recently been converted to soldiers, they were not untrained; indeed, members of the 20th Battalion were experienced and competent warriors who had captured their objectives on the first day of the battle on 1st July. Their Divisional Commander, Major General Shea, had used them on 30th July precisely because they had demonstrated their abilities a couple of weeks earlier. The real reason for the slaughter was the solidity of the German defences and the competence and resilience of the German soldiers.
89th Brigade had been ordered to capture the second line of defences at the fortified village of Guillemont, in particular a stronghold called Maltz Hall Farm. They achieved this objective by 06.00 on the 30th, but were outflanked due to the inability of other units to hold their positions. They had also been hampered by thick fog earlier in the morning, which resulted in ineffective British artillery fire and the mixing up of units. By the end of the day, the allies had advanced 300 yards and established a line between Trones Wood and Maltz Horn Farm.
We will probably never know exactly how Ernest Ingham died and what happened to his body, but we hope that this discussion of his background and of the battle in which he fell will enable us to give him greater honour, as one of the many young men from our home district who gave everything they had in the cause of liberating France from German occupation and in defending his country.
Birth: 6 Jul 1877 in West Kirby
Death: 30 Jul 1916 near Guillemont, France
Addresses: Grange Road, West Kirby (91); 26 North Road, West Kirby (01)
Unit: 20th (Pals) Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment
Numbers and Rank: 22424, Lance Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Thiepval Monument, Somme, France; Caldy Grammar School; St Bridget, West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, Census: 91, 01, SR, BR, Prob, SWBR, DA, CG