ERNEST JOHN PULLEN 

Rank: Private
Service Number: 13019.
Regiment: 2nd Bn. South Lancashire Regiment Killed In Action Monday 3rd July 1916 Age 25County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Grave\Panel Ref: Pier anf Face 7A and 7B
France

Son of Mr James Pullen, and Mrs. Charlotte Pullen, of 10, New Street, Congleton, Cheshire 15, New Street, Congleton, Cheshire and 17, New Street, Congleton, Cheshire. He had six sisters, Elizabeth Etta, Millbrough, Cissie, Lily, Beatrice and Edith Pullen, along with three brothers, James Thomas, Henry, and Leonard Pullen. He was employed as a Miller in a Flour Mill, by a Mr. Charles Caudwell, of Mossley, Congleton, Cheshire. His brother Henry served with the 52nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment, he survived the war. Private Ernest John Pullen enlisted in the 7th Battalion Cheshire Regiment on the 1st of September 1914 at Macclesfield. but transferred to the 3rd Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment and after being in training for a time he became attached to a mobile Battalion and proceeded to Edinburgh and Great Crosby, Liverpool from where he was drafted out to France. He later transferred to the 2nd Battalion.

Extract from the Congleton Chronicle in 1915.

He and his friend Private Frank Dale (who has subsequently been seriously wounded) took part in the sanguinary fighting in Belgium. It was during the dark and chilly days of last winter that he contracted a chill, followed by enteric fever and was invalided home. His many friends in Congleton will be glad to learn that Private Pullen has so far recovered to be able to go back to the front. Private Pullen who with Private Frank Dale, served in the Territorial Force for some years, was sent out in January last to France and not being there long was drafted to Kesnit, Belgium near Ypres, where he along with Private Frank Dale, the only two lads of Congleton in that Regiment, took part in the firing line. He was in several engagements there prior to being put out of action. It was at Kesnit, near Ypres where Private Pullen fell sick with enteric, which almost cost him his life and it was not many days after when his comrade, Private Frank Dale fell with wounds. Both lads have many experiences to tell, besides having to contend with the very hard weather in that ruined country of Belgium. Private Pullen passed through many hospitals in his illness. He and Private Dale have been within 100 yards of the German trenches. The trenches are very wet and the roads are bad and in some places, there are large holes, filled with water, which were caused by the "Jack Johnson's shells". Not only are these dangerous, but the Germans have powerful rockets which give a magnificent light and these go up in the air about 100 yards and every time one goes up you have almost to fall down to keep out of sight of the German trenches and snipers as many lose their life by this work. Now, at the front of the trenches are what I call barbed wire fences, and this wire is very dangerous and the British soldier has to go out at night and work amongst it, many times under heavy fire. Accordingly, at midnight, word is passed along the line of trenches that a working party is going out in front of the trenches and in a few minutes about six muffled figures creep over the parapet of the trench. Half an hour is spent carrying forward the materials for the night's work, logs of wood (large and small), a pick, coils of wire slung on their stick and lastly, a heavy wooden mallet and some sand bags to deaden the sound of the heavy blows. The stakes are laid just where they are wanted, then the ground is broken and the hammering begins. Suddenly an awesome silence reigns, unbroken even by rifle fire. Thud, thud, thud, the post sinks into the ground, until the Officer gives the order to desist. So the work goes on until a star rocket rises majestically from the German trenches, lighting up the ground between the intervening trenches as if by some ruddy flood. This is the signal for us to drop flat on the ground and we hug the earth we are thankful of the darkness. Phiz, another rocket bursts and lands very near us. Then a machine gun spits out venomously, but still we haven't been seen. We lie still, then we continue our wiring until the night's work is done, when we creep back to our trenches and send along the message " Working Party In". Our hands are cut and our clothes are torn, but nobody seems to care. This goes on night after night.

He took no part in the initial conflict on the 1st of July 1916. The third week in June the 25th Division, which had been training west of St POI, moved south to join the 4th Army. At the commencement of the battle it lay round Warley about 4 miles behind the front line together with the 12th Division in the 4th Army Reserve. The following day the 7th Brigade moved into X Corps and proceeded to Aveluy Wood and was held in Corps Reserve, the 75th Brigade moved to Martinsart (where they were bivouacked), and together with the 105th Field Company Royal Engineers and two Companies of the South Wales Borderers and the 75th Field Ambulance were placed under the orders of the 32 nd Division in the front line. The attack by the X Corps had made a certain amount of headway opposite Ovillers and had resulted in the capture of a small portion of the Leipzig salient. Further north the 36th Division made one of the most brilliant advances of the war, taking the whole of their objectives in scheduled time. Owing to the failure of the attacks on their flanks and on other parts of the line the ground gained was gradually lost by them and by the relieving troops after their withdrawal from the battle. Much the same state of affairs existed north of the Ancre. The same evening the 75th Brigade was ordered to Aveluy Wood and to deliver an attack on the Thiepval Spur from the direction of Authuille at 03:00 hours on the next day the 3 rd of July. The operation was planned in conjunction with an attack by the VI 11 Corps against the enemy's line north of the Ancre River, whilst the 49th Division were to attack the line south of the river as far as the Thiepval Spur and the 12th Division to attack Ovillers and the defences immediately north of the village. During the night of the 2nd /3rd of July, however, the proposed attack by the V 111 Corps and the 49th Division on the left was cancelled and that by the 75th Brigade postponed until 06:00 hours, whilst the 12 th Division attacked at 03 00 hours according to the original plan. The latter however failed to reach their objectives. At 06:00 hours the artillery barrage lifted from the German front line and the 75th Brigade went forward with the 11th Battalion the Cheshire Regiment on the right the 8th Battalion the Border Regiment in the centre and the 2nd Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. Cotton on the left with the 8th Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment in reserve. The assembly of the assaulting troops had been carried out with some difficulty owing to the heavy shelling of all the approaches and communication trenches. Lack of knowledge of the ground increased the difficulties, but in spite of this the battalions were ready at the appointed moment of the attack. They advanced at 06:00 hours and by 07:00 hours it was clear that they had entered the German positions, but no information was feeding back to H.Q. and it soon became clear that the attack was breaking down. At 09:30 hours, Colonel Cotton who had advanced with D Company under Captain C. P. Whitaker reported to Brigade H.Q., the attack is unsuccessful and we hold no position of the enemy line. He went on to detail estimated casualty numbers, finishing by saying, I have no men in reserve or support. It seems that although they entered the enemy trenches. The four companies of the Cheshire's, the 8th Border's and the 2nd South Lancashire respectively suffered very heavy casualties and were met by heavy flanking machine gun fire and never reached their objectives. In the centre, the Border Regiment were more successful, but were unable, owing to pressure on their flanks to maintain themselves in the German front line for more than one and a half hours. Being badly enfiladed by machine guns and heavy shell fire from Thiepval and beyond they were forced to retire to their original line. The failure of the operation can be largely attributed to the lack of time for reconnaissance, previous preparation and the lack of co-ordination between artillery and infantry units. The Battalion had lost 14 Officers and 300 Ordinary Ranks, killed, wounded, or missing. Among those killed was Private Ernest John Pullen whose body was never recovered. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.



Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1916.

                                                                            
PRIVATE PULLEN KILLED IN GALLANT CHARGE.
   ONE OF THE FIRST TO JOIN UP.

Official news has reached Mrs. Pullen, of New Street, Congleton, that her son, Private Ernest John Pullen of the South Lancashire Regiment, has laid down his life for King and Country. It was on the third day of the great forward movement in France when he was killed and Mrs. Pullen prior to receiving news of her son's death through the Army Council, sought for tidings of the "missing" soldier through every available channel. In the early days of September in answer to a letter sent to the Enquiry Department of the Red Cross Society, Mrs. Pullen received word that although the most searching inquiries had been made, no news had been received which complete trust could be placed on, and that the dearth of news was not hopeful. There was a definite rumour, however, in the Regiment to which the soldier belonged that he was killed in action at Thiepval, but the information was by no means conclusive. On 8th of November information came to hand that the Red Cross had received direct evidence which confirmed the hearsay evidence in the letter forwarded in September. A Private in the South Lancashire Regiment who lay in hospital at Starmore, Middlesex, had written, On the 3rd of July, on the left of Albert on the Somme, I saw Pullen killed. We were advancing over the parapet, and Pullen was about three yards on my left when he fell down, struck by shrapnel fire. He fell outside the trench, nearly up to the German lines.
That he was killed as stated was confirmed in the official notification dated the 11th of November and though the worst was feared, the sad news came as a great shock to his friends in Congleton. All the world presumably knows by now the great achievements of our splendid lads during the first days of what has been described as the Big Push. But we at home will perhaps never adequately realise how great this success was and how truly magnificent the work of the first few days was. If you look at the map, the ground won seems absurdly insignificant. Even when the nature of the ground is explained and it is said that our progress was uphill and against the positions fortified by the enemy during his two years of occupation and held with all the strength that Germany could exert against our troops, there was still no picture, hardly even a suggestion, of the difficulties which had to be faced and the gallantry displayed in overcoming them. And our modest lads who overcame them would be the last to paint in primary colours the brave deeds that won for them the admiration of the world.

Private Pullen was a true patriot, and " joined up" in August 1914, since when he has seen some sanguinary fighting in the Western Theatre. Nothing seemed to damp his exuberant spirit, and the letters he sent from France in the damp and chilly days of winter spoke of a sincere pride in the work he was able to do for the dear homeland. He was wanting to say that if it was his lot to journey into the Great Unknown, satisfaction would be vouchsafed to his parents and brothers and sisters to the fact that he had died doing his duty. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved family in their hour of trial.

A memorial service was held in memory of Private Pullen at St Stephen's Church, Congleton, on Sunday week, when a number of friends attended. The dead soldier, who was 25 years of age, was before the war a regular attender at Rood Lane Sunday School.


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

© Cheshire County Memorial Project
2016