Private Ernest Durham

Thank you to Karen Wilson from Betchworth Village Archives for allowing us to publish her research.

Ernest Durham was born in Brockham on June 15th 1889; he was the fifth son of Thomas and Zillah Durham. At the time of Ernest’s birth his 55 year old father was working as a labourer in the Chalk Pits, and the family’s address was Brockham Pits. Thomas and Zillah had married in Warwickshire in October 1876 when Thomas was 41 and Zillah was 27. At the time of their marriage Thomas was living and working in Brockham.

Thomas Durham died in 1893 and at some point after his death the family moved to 1, Barley Mow Gardens. These were cottages behind the old Barley Mow and have since been demolished. Ernest’s brothers Walter, Arthur and John were all working as general labourers in the Lime Pits along with his 15 year old brother Thomas who was an engine boy. Ernest had attended Brockham School but in October 1902 was admitted to Betchworth School. He only stayed for 5 months and left in March 1903 and became a ‘worker’; he joined his brothers working in the Lime Pits. All five boys were still living with their widowed mother, Zillah, but their sister (also Zillah) had left home. She had married William Burberry in 1903 and was living in Oakdene Road in Brockham.

When war broke out, all the Durham boys except Walter enlisted at some point. John was severely wounded early on in the war and was invalided out; Arthur served with the Rifle Brigade in India; Thomas joined the Middlesex Regiment and served in Salonika and in March 1916 Ernest enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. He was transferred to the Labour Corps and sent to France almost immediately.

On May 15th 1918 Zillah Durham received a telegram from the officer in charge of the Labour Corps records which read: ‘Regret to inform you that Pte. E. Durham is dangerously ill in the general hospital at Rouen, in France; gas shell. Also regret that permission to visit him cannot be granted.’ Three days later Zillah received the news that Ernest’s injuries had proved fatal. In fact, Ernest had died on May 13th, before she had received the first telegram. He was 28 years old.

Ernest Durham Death Notice 28th December 1918 © Dorking Advertiser

Ernest was buried in the St. Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen where the 8,647 dead from the 15 Rouen hospitals were buried during the course of the war.

Born                            Brockham, Surrey
Lived                           Betchworth, Surrey

Son of                         Thomas and Zillah Durham, of Barley Mow Gardens, Betchworth

Regiment                     101st Company. Labour Corps
Number                       26656

Former Regiment          34th Battalion. Royal Fusiliers

Date of Death              13th May 1918
Place of Death             Rouen, France
Cause of Death           Died of wounds

Age                             28

Memorial                     St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen