ERNEST HENRY KENWARD
2nd BATTALION, ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT
DIED OF WOUNDS RECEIVED IN THE BATTLE OF THE AISNE
18th SEPTEMBER 1914, AGED 20
ERNEST HENRY KENWARD was born in Steep, Hampshire, on 28th May 1893, the son of Albery Edwin and Harriet Kenward. He was the brother of Rosina Daisy (born Petersfield 1892), Frederick William (born Petersfield 1895), Gwendolen Hilda (born Petersfield 1897), Reginald (born Petersfield 1900), Harold (born Goring 1902), Elizabeth (born Goring 1903), Frank (born Rudgwick 1906), Maude (born Wisborough Green 1908) and Dorris (born Offham 1911).
The birth places of Ernest's siblings traces the movements of the family prior to 1911, when they were living in Offham, West Sussex, at which time Ernest was 18 years old and employed as a groom. His service number indicates that Ernest travelled to Chichester to enlist in the Royal Sussex Regiment in the first months of 1913. It appears that the family lived in Rudgwick between 1903 and 1908.
TO FRANCE WITH THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Ernest's personal service records appear to have been destroyed during the Second World War, however surviving documents indicate that he arrived overseas for service with the British Expeditionary Force on 12th August 1914.
At the commencement of the First World War in August 1914 the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (2/Sussex) were stationed in Woking. The battalion was mobilised at 6.30pm on 4th August 1914 and left Woking for Southampton by train in the morning of 12th August as an element of 2nd Brigade, 1st Division. The battalion embarked onto two ships, the SS 'Olympia' and 'Agapenor' and sailed that evening, disembarking at Le Havre the following day. The battalion moved up to meet the advancing German forces, and witnessed the German shelling of Mons before commencing the retreat that was to see the Allied forces pushed back to the River Marne, south east of Paris.
The 2/Sussex suffered their first casualty on 25th August when a sergeant was wounded in the thigh by bullets fired at an aircraft overhead. On 4th September 1914 the battalion came under enemy fire for the first time near Aulnoy. The retreat halted at the River Marne, to the east of Paris. Here, between the 5th and the 12th September the Allied forces turned the tide of the German advance with the Battle of the Marne. On 10th September the unit took part in an action near Preiz, in which 19 officers and men were killed, 85 were wounded and a number were reported missing. The German forces began to retrace their steps northwards, back to the valley of the River Aisne
THE BATTLE OF THE AISNE
On 14th September, the first day of the Battle of the Aisne, the 2/Sussex were in action near Vendresses, on the high ground to the north of the valley of the Aisne. Losses were very severe with 5 officers, including their commanding officer, Lt Col E. H. Montresor, and 11 men killed in action, 3 officers and 79 men wounded, and 1 officer and 114 men missing. The high number of missing reflected the fact that the battalion had to leave many of their casualties in front of their trenches & were denied recovering them by German rifle fire and snipers. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register indicates that 6 officers and 53 men of 2/Sussex died on this day.
It is likely that Private Ernest Henry Kenward was wounded in the actions of 10th or 14th September. He was moved rearwards through what must have been a rather disrupted casualty clearing system and arrived in a hospital near Nante on the Atlantic coast near the River Loire. On 18th September 1914 Ernest died of his wounds. He was laid to rest in the Nantes (La Bouteillerie) Cemetery.
Ernest was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and The Victory Medal.