Posted by: michaeldaybath | April 24, 2017

Corporal Ernest Charles Chivers, 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry

Midsomer Norton Church

Church of St John the Baptist, Midsomer Norton (Somerset)

One of the names on the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers war memorial in Bath Abbey is that of Ernest Charles Chivers, a bellringer at Midsomer Norton in Somerset. He died of wounds in France on the 24th April 1917.

At the time of his death, the 23-year old Ernest Chivers was a Corporal in the 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry. The 1st Somersets were training in the Arras area on the 24th April, so it is most likely that 20782 Corporal E. C. Chivers had been wounded earlier in April, when the battalion were heavily involved in the First Battle of the Scarpe. This operation, which was part of the wider Battle of Arras, ran from 9th to 14th April 1917.

The 1st Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry were part of 11th Infantry Brigade in the British 4th Division, and had been in France since August 1914. On the 8th April 1917, the 1st Somersets marched to Maroeuil in preparation for the opening of the Battle of Arras. The battalion war diary (The National Archives WO 95/1499/5) reported that “All preparations for coming attack made everyone in most-cheerful mood.” The 4th Division were attacking in conjunction with the 9th Division. The offensive commenced early in the morning of the 9th April when the battalion advanced, together with 1st Rifle Brigade and 1st Hampshires, towards a stronghold known as the Hyderabad Redoubt, north of the village of Fampoux. Much ground was taken by both divisions involved in this attack, but multiple attempts to break out of the redoubt over subsequent days did not succeed. Fighting continued for several days before the battalion were relived by 1st Hampshires on the 14th April, although they stayed close to the front line until 4th Division was relived by the 37th Division on the 19th. The battalion war diary lists the casualties in this operation as:

  • Officers: killed, 7; wounded, 4.
  • Other Ranks: killed, 23; wounded, 94 +10

The war diary continues:

“All ranks behaved splendidly through a very trying operation; everyone suffered very much from the bad weather and loss of sleep, hot food etc, but the men were very-cheery, and ready to carry out every thing asked of them: at one period some Officers collapsed through sheer exhaustion, only three being fit to carry on, i.e. The C.O., Adjutant, and Lewis Gun Officer. The exhausted Officers recovered somewhat and continued at duty. The Batt. can congratulate itself on having gone through a very trying ordeal in very fine style.”

Corporal E. C. Chivers died-of-wounds on the 24 April 1917 and is buried at Étaples Military Cemetery, near Boulogne in France. Étaples is a long way from Arras, so it seems likely that Cpl. Chivers died in one of the many military hospitals in that area, after being evacuated from the front. Étaples Military Cemetery is the largest CWGC cemetery in France, with over 10,000 burials from the First World War. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Ernest was the eldest son of Frederick and Emma Chivers. He was born in the 1st quarter of 1898. At the time of the 1911 Census, the family were living at 13, The Island in Midsomer Norton. Frederick was a 41-year old chauffeur, Emma a 42-year old caretaker. Ernest Charles was at that point 17-years old and working as a shoe maker. He had several younger siblings: Arthur Stanley (in 1911 working as a boot finisher) and three others (Eveline, Florence and Eric) who were all still at school. Ten years earlier, the family had been living at 14, the Island, when Frederick Chivers was working as a coachman (domestic). All members of the family had been born at Midsomer Norton.

Midsomer Norton war memorial

Midsomer Norton War Memorial

As well as the Bath and Wells Diocesan Association memorial in Bath Abbey, Ernest Chivers’s name also features on the war memorial at Midsomer Norton.

Ernest’s younger brother, 37982 Private Arthur Stanley Chivers, also died in the First World War. He served in the same unit as his brother, the 1st Somersets, and he died on the 14th April 1918. His body was never found or identified, so his name appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium. At the time of the 1911 Census, Arthur was 14-years old and working as a “boot finisher.” He was also a bellringer at Midsomer Norton and his name features on the same war memorials as his brother.



  1. […] Ernest also died on the Western Front, serving with the same battalion of the Somersets. 20782 Corporal Ernest Charles Chivers died-of-wounds on the 24 April 1917 and was buried at Étaples Military Cemetery, near Boulogne in […]

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