Ernest John Diplock


Died : 14 May 1917

One of the younger of our parishioners to die, Ernest John Diplock was born on 4th November 1897. He was baptised at St. Mary the Virgin Church and subsequently educated at Ringmer School from 15th April 1901 until 1st February 1909 when the School Admissions Register states that he 'Left the District'. It seems that some time after that young Ernest emigrated to Canada.
Although he lived originally with Jane and Alfred Diplock at Ringmer Green in 1901, he was in fact the illegitimate son of their eldest daughter Jane.
As a Private, number 202012 (formerly 4746) Ernest saw considerable action in the fifteen months before his death on 14th May 1917. He served in the 1/1st City of London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) as part of the 167th Brigade in the 56th Division. The Battalion was especially involved in the Battles of the Somme. They initially attacked in the north on 1st July 1916 against the formidably fortified Gommecourt Salient where many casualties occurred. From 20th August they fought in other parts of the Somme, notably in the Battles of Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette and Morval. All of these are in the southern parts of the zone and the fighting was bitter and intense. The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, from 15th to 22nd September 1916, is particularly notable as it was the first occasion that tanks were used in action.
From the end of October 1916 until Spring 1917 the 167th Brigade occupied an area near Neuve Chapelle. It had been the scene of much fighting in 1915 and the opposing lines were very close together. The terrain was largely flat and waterlogged beside being strewn with the carnage and general debris of war. It was a vile and unhealthy place to spend a winter of intermittent fighting, not only against the Germans but also to survive against the elements.

On 9th April 1917 Private Diplock was in the thick of the successful attack against the heavily fortified village of Neuville Vitasse. This action cost the Battalion dearly in lives but Ernest was to be spared for one more month.

From 8th to 12th May 1917 the Battalion was ordered to bivouac at Tilloy for the purpose of resting and reorganising. Their peace was shattered, literally, on the 11th when four heavy 24cm naval shells dropped into the bivouac and killed fourteen of their number. The Battalion then moved up to the Wancourt Line during 12th May to relieve the Queen Victoria Rifles. The following day they took over the left sector north of the Cambrai Road from the London Scottish.
Massive shelling of their front and support lines on 14th May killed six more of their depleted numbers. Among the dead that day was Ernest Diplock. His body was never recovered, indeed it was most probably blown to pieces. He is commemorated by name on the Memorial to the Missing at Arras.

With not even a grave to visit, all his mother received to cherish in exchange for her son's young life were the British War & Victory Medals, plus of course the Memorial Plaque & Scroll.

Arras Memorial to the Missing, where Ernest Diplock is commemorated.

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993