A Soldier’s Relative Requested For The Forgotten Roll Of Honor To be Returned To Church

Sergeant Ernest Coleman, 18, from Epsom made it alive from the battle of the Somme but is believed to have died in April 1917. His name was listed on one of the rolls of honor removed by the vicar from St Barnabas, in Temple Road, Epsom and archived at Surrey History Centre in Woking in the 1990s.

Now a relative of Sergeant Ernest Coleman, Lynne Winstanley, wrote to the Epsom Guardian, urging for the rolls to be put back in the church for people to be able to see them and remember and honor those names listed on them.

During his life, Sgt Coleman of Church Road, Epsom kept a diary relating his experiences during his service in the First World War, including living in the trenches, church activities, bullets and drinking rum.

Ms Winstanley, who read the young sergeant’s diary, said he mentioned going to church services and that it would seem appropriate for the rolls of honor to be kept in the church and not hidden in an archive. The battle of the Somme recorded 60,000 British casualties after the first day of the fighting. That was also the time when Sgt Coleman’s diary became most messy and illegible.

“The last three, the blackest of my life so far have got accidentally smugged (sic) out – but they’ll never get wiped out of my mind,” he wrote about the last three days of the battle of the Somme, the Epsom Guardian reports.

Last time he wrote in his diary he talked about the end of a year, the end of 1916, as being the most adventurous year for him, aged 18 and probably a more adventurous year than any year lived by an average man aged 50 or 60. He continued saying that he lived the experiences he enlisted for, that he was made to be a wanderer and that is what he was, a wanderer.

He ended by writing how proud he was of his last 18 months on the front and that he hoped he and his diary would soon return home safely. His 1916 diary did survive but what didn’t was his 1917 diary and the one he wrote for his company, the 63 Company, the Machine Gun Corps.

It is believed he was killed by a sniper in April 1917, during the Battle of Arras on the Western Front. The church, represented by Reverend Sue Bull, has accepted to meet and discuss the options. People have been invited to the gathering next week, where they will discuss what could be done to remember the fallen soldier listed on the rolls of honor.

All interested parties have been invited to the discussion on Monday at 8pm at St Barnabas, in Temple Road, Epsom.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE