As a boy he attended Balfour Road School and was associated with the Halton Road Weleyan Church and Sunday School.
He worked at the Salt Union Works at Weston Point as a rivitors labourer before enlisting at Runcorn into the 3rd South Lancashire Regiment as No 39407 on 17th February 1917. His service records state that he was 5ft 5 inches and 122lbs. He disembarked at havre on 2nd June 1917. Between July and August 1917 he was badly gassed and wounded.
He was allowed leave to the UK for 14 days on 12th March 1918, on returning to action was injured twice, in April a GSW to his left hand, then a GSW to his right arm, for which he was admitted to hospital for 66 days before being discharged on 29th June.
On the 9th October 1918 he joined the 1st Cheshire's. At the time of Ernest s death the Cheshire's where involved in the Battle of the Selle, and on the 23rd attacked the village of Beaurain, about 15 miles east of Cambrai. The battalion suffered heavy casualties from German shelling while getting to their assembly positions.
At 3:20am they where ordered to advance meeting enemy machine guns and artillery. The battalion finally took their objective at 9am. The war diary states they lost 1 officer and 34 men in the attack with 177 wounded.
Ernest was buried in Amerval Communal Cemetery Extension, along with 28 of his comrades who also fell on that day. Ernest is laid to rest in a line with 7 of his comrades.
The inscription at the base reads “We Loved Him well, But Jesus Loved him best”
His parents are buried in Runcorn Cemetery plot 15 graves 197 & 198, and although the joint grave is overgrown, there is a stone monument visible that reads the following:
“In memory of Pte Ernest Whitby, 1st Ches Regt”
“who was killed in action in France Oct 23 1918 aged 23 years, a loving son true and kind, a beautiful memory left behind. “
“Duty Nobly Done”
He is also commemorated on the Runcorn War Memorial on Greenway Road.Compiled by Graeme Ainsworth with assistance from Percy Dunbavand