If you are lucky enough to be born after the first half of the 20th Century it’s sometimes difficult to understand just how war impacted so many families and cut short the lives of so many young men.
Ernest was born in 1898 and baptised in Berkhamsted on 29 May 1898. He was the only child of Archibald Ernest and Lily nee Duncombe who had married the previous December. When Ernest was still very young his father went to South Africa as a volunteer with the Bedfordshire Regiment, to fight in the second Boar War. Ernest and his mother are listed as living at 7 Highfield Road in 1901. A few months later, on 29th July that year, Ernest’s father died of disease at Bloemfontein aged just 24.
By 1911 Ernest’s mother had married Edward George Gray. The family, including a half brother for Ernest, lived at 7 Bank Mill Lane. There are very few records to help build Ernest’s story from here. We know that he served in three separate regiments during the Great War, firstly the Cambridgeshire as Private 330918, then 24th Battalion, Kings Own York as Private 36964 and finally as a rifleman with the Kings Royal rifles 56772. The number of different regiments possibly suggests illness or wounds but it cannot be proven without his military records. We know from the absent voters roll hat he was still serving in the autumn of 1919. By this time the family address was given as 1 Gossoms End. After the war he belonged to the Territorial Artillery.
Ernest died of TB on 9 March 1924 he was just 25 years old. His remains were borne to the cemetery on a gun carriage provided by the Watford Battery of the Royal Field Artillery. His father is also remembered on his headstone, “Ernest John Osborne died 9th March 1924 through serving in the Great war. Archibald Ernest Osborne, his father, died South African War 29th July 1901”. According to the report in the Gazette he had been unwell for a considerable time but his mother clearly believed this was due to his war service, she applied for his pension after his death but was refused.