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Ernest Wilby (1882-1943)

South Moor man served in the 19th Battalion DLI

Ernest was born on 27 September 1882 in Halifax, Yorkshire. He was baptised at St. John’s the Baptist church on 5 April 1885. His father was John Wilby, a potter originally from Low Moor, Yorkshire. His mother was Emma Wilby nee Jowett, a carter’s daughter originally from Halifax. His parents married on 26 October 1878. Ernest had three brothers and two sisters.

At the time of the 1891 census, the family were living at 6 Camden Street, Halifax and Ernest’s father was working as an earthenware trough maker. By 1901 the family had moved to 3 Dover Street, Halifax and Ernest was working as a clay worker.

Ernest married Rena Oddy on 27 October 1906, a labourer’s daughter from Halifax. At the time of the 1911 census, Ernest and Rena had had two children; Harry, born 18 Feb 1907 and Herbert, born 1 April 1908. The family were living at 4 Westfield Court, Havelock Street, Halifax. Ernest was working as a water closet maker. Sometime between the 1911 census and when Ernest enlisted into the army, the family must have moved up to South Moor, Durham and Ernest began working as a miner.

Ernest enrolled in the 19th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) on 7 March 1915. This battalion was known as a ‘bantam’ battalion which were formed when the height restriction for service was reduced to five foot. He served as a private and was given the service number 19/954. As part of the 19th Battalion, Ernest would have arrived in France in January 1916 and served at the Somme.

On 14 May 1917 Ernest was injured, losing his leg. He was awarded the Silver War Badge, awarded to soldiers honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness sustained from military service.

Ernest was awarded the Military Medal, reported in the London Gazette on 21 October 1916. He was presented with this medal in a ceremony in South Moor reported in the Stanley News on 3 January 1918. This report records the belief of the Vicar that Ernest should have received the Victoria Cross rather than the Military Medal. Ernest also received the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his Service.

Ernest died in Halifax in 1943. Both of his sons were killed during World War Two serving in the DLI.

Civil Parish: South Moor

Birth date: 27-Sep-1882

Death date: 1943

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 6 Camden Street, Halifax (1891 census)
3 Dover Street, Halifax (1901 census)
4 Westfield Court, Havelock Street, Halifax (1911 census)
35 Rose Avenue, Oxhill, Stanley (1918 Voter’s list)

Employment: Clay worker (1911 census)

Family: Parents: John Wilby, Emma Wilby
Siblings: Alfred Wilby, Walter Wilby, Edith Wilby, Lewis Wilby, Maud Wilby
Spouse: Rena Wilby nee Oddy
Children: Harry Wilby, Herbert Wilby

Military service:

19th Battalion DLI
Service Number 19/954

Medal(s): Military Medal
Silver War Badge
Victory Medal
British War Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham