Rank: Private
Service Number: 13911.
Regiment: 22nd Coy. Machine Gun Corps
Formerly: 4/5555 Cheshire Regiment
Killed In Action Wednesday 3rd October 1917 Age 25County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried TYNE COT MEMORIAL
Grave\Panel Ref: Panel 154 to 159 and 163A

Son of Mr. William Richard Birkenshaw and Mrs. Alice Birkenshaw, of Boundary Road, Mossley, Congleton, Cheshire. He had one sister, Annie Birkenshaw. In 1911, he was employed as a Labourer.

Private Ernest Birkenshaw was with the 22nd Company, The Machine Gun Corps who were under the command of the 22nd Brigade, 7th Division and part of X. Corps (Second Army)

On the 4th of October 1917, the Division was in the vicinity of Polygon Wood, awaiting the attack which aimed to capture the Gheuvelt Plateau and drive the enemy off Broodseinde Ridge and the Gravenstafel Spur which stood between the British and the village of Passchendaele. This would protect the southern flank of the British line and allow attacks on Passchendaele Ridge to the north-east. The main attacking troops were the Anzac Corps, the New Zealand Division and the 3 rd Australian Division. They attacked to the left of Zonnebeke with the 48th (South Midland) Division on the left. On the right were the 2 nd and 1st Australian Divisions with the 7th Division to their right. The attack was successful and the Germans driven back. During the battle to capture Broodseinde Ridge, the 7th Division suffered 2123 casualties, among those killed in action was Private Ernest Birkenshaw whose death was instantaneous. He was buried while the area was still under shell fire and his grave was lost. He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1917.

Mrs. Birkenshaw has received several letters from that grim area where the young soldier fell, expressing sorrow at the loss of such a good soldier, but he was also a great favourite among the rank and file. One of his friends (J Capper) writes to Mrs. Birkenshaw as follows.

I suppose by the time you read my letter you will have heard the sad news of your son's death. We very much regret losing such a good pal as Ernest was and I want you to accept our deepest sympathy. He was very much liked by the men of his Company and there is no doubt that he will be very much missed. There is one consolation for you and that is he was killed instantly and suffered no pain. We made a grave and buried him whilst under shellfire, so we did our best. He was killed on the 4th of October and I am very sorry I could not write before, but I have not been in a position to do so.

Private Birkenshaw had done some splendid work and he is spoken of by those in authority as a most willing young man. His comrades find it impossible to speak too highly of his comradeship and his Officers of his unfailing energy, his thoroughness and his character as a man. Small that wonder then, that he was greatly esteemed and respected by these lads who are bearing the brunt out there in France, or that the news of his death caused poignant grief among the inhabitants of Mossley. The deceased who was 25 years of age, took an active part in the religious life and work among lads. With abilities above the average, a successful career lay before him in the profession to which he was devoted. His was an unassuming nature, but the few who knew him best, knew him to be earnest and sincere, straight living and upright and true to the faith that was in him.

This article states that Ernest was killed on the 4th October, however both soldiers died and the CWGC have Ernest listed as the 3rd.

Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for the research on Ernest.

© Cheshire County Memorial Project