Gerald Burnett visited the museum to relate the story of his grandfather Ernest Wyatt Burnett.
My Grandfather, Ernest Wyatt Burnett was born in Chudleigh, Devonshire, in 1886. After minimal schooling and several agricultural jobs, Ernest moved to London and became a chauffeur with various employers including Thomas Tilling. He spent the pre-war years driving around Great Britain with American tourists and contemporary industrialists such as Tommy Lipton of tea fame.
Ernest enlisted with the Royal Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Branch, in April 1915 and became a Staff Car driver.
In 1915, the Government appointed five official Western Front War Correspondents, Philip Gibbs, Percival Phillips, H. Perry Robinson, W. Beach Thomas and Herbert Russell. Ernest was assigned to be their driver, a position he held until the end of the war.
Ernest was transferred to the Reserve in February 1919. Alongside his ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ decorations he was awarded a Silver Medal for Merit by Nicholas I, King of Montenegro.
During WW2, Ernest served with the Home Guard at Balcombe Place, his Sussex home, where he was chauffeur to Lady Gertrude Denman who was President of the Women’s Institute and Honorary Director of The Women’s Land Army.
My Grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He served his country, survived two World Wars, and lived a full and interesting life.
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Submitted by Josephine Parker. My Grandfather, Owen Thompson served in The Northamptonshire Regiment, he trained new recruits during the First World War. During the war he served in Egypt and Gallipoli. He continued this role despite contracting Malaria.
Information submitted by Mrs Audrey Grundy. Joseph Whitell Bainbridge was born in 1896, his family ran Bainbridge’s Drapers Shop in Richmond Marketplace. Which occupied the building where Penley’s stands today. He was a territorial solider with the 4th battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment prior to the outbreak of the First World War and appears to have rejoined as a volunteer with the same battalion after the conflict started. Joseph arrived in France with the 4th battalion on 18 April 1915. His territorial regimental number (2370) was later revised to 200533. His war service led to the award of the 1915 Star, the British War medal and the Victory medal. Joseph’s older brother, Thomas Lawrence Bainbridge (also of the Yorkshire Regiment) was killed during the Battle of Arras on 23 April 1917. He had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.
Vicki Walker of Little Crakehall called into the museum to show us a photograph of Duncan Harvie, her grandfather. The photo is a postcard addressed to ‘Mary and Sam’, sent on 3 April 1916 and shows a group of Signallers on board HMS Laconia. Duncan Harvie (5th South African Regiment) is sat at the front of the group with crossed legs. The ship’s log shows the Laconia (an armed merchant cruiser) to be anchored at Zanzibar on that date, on it’s way to British East Africa (now Kenya). The ship was used in the early part of the war to patrol the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, but in April 1915 her role changed and she was used as a headquarters ship to aid in the fight in German East Africa. Following her return to to Cunard, the Laconia was sunk by U-50 160 miles northwest of Fastnet while returning form the United States on 25th February 1917. Twelve people were killed following a double torpedo strike.