Ernest Scotton’s birth was registered in the third quarter of 1887 in Rugby. He was baptized in St Andrews Church Rugby, along with his brother Herbert, on 10 February 1889. His parents were Theophilus and Matilda Scotton and at the time of the birth registrations Theophilus was recorded as a Fireman and the family lived at 4 Argyle Street, Rugby.
In 1891 Ernest was with relatives in the Albert Street area of Leicester and was recorded as aged 3 and nephew of Walter, Willie and Florence Scotton, shoemakers, the sole occupants of the house on that census date.
In 1901 Ernest was 13. The family lived at 8 Argyle Street. Ernest had 5 younger siblings. Herbert who was 12, Francis 10, Reuben 8, Dorothy 5 and Stanley aged 3. Their father was now a Railway Engine Driver.
In 1911 Ernest was 23 and appeared on the census working as a ‘Clerk Piecework’ in an ‘Ordnance Co’, away from home. He had formerly been employed in the Production Department of the BTH.
He enlisted with his two brothers at the beginning of the war and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, as Rifleman No.Z/464 in the 8th Division and 25th Brigade. He would have been one of the first Rugby men to join the new army, probably enlisting in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade in September or October 1914.
The 2nd Battalion was still returning from India (Kuldana in Pakistan), via Bombay, until they arrived at Liverpool on 22 October 1914, and joined 25th Brigade, 8th Division at Hursley Park, Winchester. They then proceeded to France landing at Le Havre on the 6 November 1914, ready to engage in various actions on the Western Front.
At that date, Ernest was probably still ‘in training’ with other members of the Battalion who it seems were first posted to Queensbury Pier and then to guard duty at Munster. He entered into the French theatre of war on 17 February 1915, although his obituary suggested he had been in France since December 1914.
He was probably with his Battalion for the British offensive of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle from 10 to 20 March 1915, when the 25th Brigade of the 8th Division assaulted the German trenches and the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade incurred severe casualties from machine gun and artillery fire. During this time, his fellow Rugby Rifleman, George Judd, was killed on 19 March 1915 .
Later that year the 2nd Battalion was involved in the Battle of Aubers Ridge on 9 May, when they suffered further heavy casualties, with fifteen officers and two hundred and forty-eight men killed, and then at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.
On 18 October 1915, 24th Brigade transferred to 23rd Division to instruct inexperienced troops. In March 1916, 23rd Division took over the front line between Boyau de l’Ersatz and the Souchez River in the Carency sector from the French 17th Division, an area exposed to heavy shelling. In mid April they withdrew to Bruay returning to the Carency sector in mid-May just before the German attack on Vimy Ridge, in the sector to their right. On 15 June 1916, 24th Brigade returned to 8th Division.
In 1916, the 2nd Battalion was in action at the Battle of Albert on the first day of the Battle of The Somme as part of the 25th Brigade in the 8th Division. The four Battalions of the 25th Brigade were involved in the attack towards Ovillers.
The 2nd Lincolns, the 2nd Berkshires, the 1st Royal Irish, and the 2nd Rifle Brigade [making up the 25th Brigade] attacked over open ground. … This attack failed completely. … The 8th Division suffered 5,121 casualties for no gain whatsoever, and also had such terrible losses that it had to be replaced by the 12th Division.
Ernest was killed in action on that first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, presumably in the attack on Ovillers. He was 29 years old.
His father, who still lived at 8 Argyle Street, received the news in a letter ‘… from a chum of the deceased, who stated that Rifleman Scotton was struck in the head and killed instantly. The Chaplain also wrote: “He and his regiment did splendidly under very difficult circumstances. I am sure that your pride in him will help you bear his loss bravely.”
His body was not found or identified and he is remembered on Pier and Face 16B and 16C of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates; on the list of BTH Employees Who Served in the War 1914 – 1918 and on the BTH War Memorial.
His medal card shows that he was awarded the Victory and British medals and the 1915 Star.
His brother Frank, who also worked at BTH, was also killed in the war. He died on 9 April 1917, aged 27, serving with the 5th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and is buried at Tilloy British Cemetery, Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Ernest Cornelius Scotton was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Anne Rogers and John P H Frearson and is © Anne Rogers, John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.
 Thomas Scotland and Steven Heys, Understanding the Somme 1916: An Illuminating Battlefield Guide.
 Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 22 July 1916.