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Ernest William Plummer

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Died
: 3 September 1916

Ernest Plummer was baptised in Ringmer on 1st October 1882 and went to the local school where his brothers were also educated. He was the son of Albert Thomas and Emily Plummer who lived at Clayhill, Uckfield Road, Ringmer. On the 1891 Census he is recorded as William Ernest Plummer.

It was to the Royal Sussex Regiment that Ernest enlisted at Lewes in September 1914. One report suggests he first joined the 1/5th Territorials but soon transferred into the 12th (Southdown) Battalion which formed part of the 39th Division. They were known as ‘Southdowners’ as most of their recruits were downsmen. Soon however, local newspapers christened them, ‘Lowther’s Lambs’ after the man who instigated their formation. Colonel Claude Lowther M.P. raised these battalions as part of the effort to increase the size of Kitchener’s New Armies. Soon there were three Southdown Battalions - the 11th, 12th and 13th. After training they were sent to France on 5th March 1916.

By now a Lance Corporal, with the number SD/ 1643, Ernest Plummer saw action in several parts of the Front before his Battalion was made ready for a major attack on 30th June 1916. It was to be at a place called Richebourg that the three Southdown Battalions were flung headlong against the enemy. Yet another diversionary move, it was principally intended to deceive the Germans into believing the main offensive was to be other than on the Somme the following day. Overall the attack that morning was a disaster and the three battalions lost 366 officers and men. There were almost three times that number wounded, among them L/Cpl. Ernest Plummer.

On 3rd September 1916 the 39th Division were in action again and on that day attacked the enemy’s position immediately north of the River Ancre. This is a tributary of the main River Somme. The objective was the enemy’s third line and it was reached but found impossible to hold on to. The gallant 12th Battalion did hold on however until 6pm when they were ordered to withdraw. The survivors re-assembled in the village of Hamel until relieved at 7pm by the 1/6th Cheshire Regiment. They then proceeded to Fort Moulin to rest.

The casualties were regarded as light with three officers and seven other ranks killed or missing and a total of 57 wounded. Among the latter was Ernest Plummer who had recovered from his earlier wounds and rejoined his unit. These latest injuries proved to be fatal however and he is buried at Couin British Cemetery some seven miles from where he was hit.

Ernest married Jane Divall from Ringmer in 1904. By the time of the 1911 Census they had had three children: Nellie Emily, William Thomas and Annie Laura. Following the death of her husband, Jane  subsequently remarried and as Mrs Jane. Blackman, moved to South Street, Chailey. She was sent her deceased husband’s British War & Victory Medals. Ernest had a brother, Alfred Charles, who was also to lose his life in the service of his King and Country.

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