14th June 1893 - 13th April 1918 (age 24)
1st/7th Bn. Durham Light Infantry
John Spence was a shepherd who originated from Yarm. He lived his married life with Mary, at Thorpefields and Cocked Hat, and finally Back Lane, Sowerby. They had 12 children born between 1888 and 1907, of which two daughters and seven sons survived to adulthood including Ernest and Albert who were to die in the Great War. Another son Arthur, died in 1910 at the age of 27.
Ernest went to Sowerby Infant School from 8th November 1897 and after leaving school he found work as a live-in farm labourer with Mr. Fountain of Thirlby and later with Mr. Bentley at Sowerby Parks, Islebeck. When he attested into the Durham Light Infantry on 11th December 1915, he was 5 feet 2.5 inches tall with a 35 inch chest. Ernest spent some time in reserve at home until going overseas on 13th October 1916, arriving in France on the following day.
Ernest served with a pioneer battalion, and on 12th April 1918, they were east of Armentieres in France, at Neuf Berquin before collecting and then occupying the chateau at La Motte. At 5.00am the chateau was heavily shelled for a quarter of an hour resulting in several NCOs and men being killed and wounded. After this they were withdrawn to billets. Ernest was one of the casualties, he has no known grave and is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium, panel 8 & 9.
Sadly, John and Mary were to lose a second son, Albert Spence, only 6 weeks later.
Ernest Spence is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium - this memorial stands by the cemetery where the Crossley twins of Thirsk are buried
The information on this page was compiled by Steve Billings.
Information about Ernest Spence on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Information about Ernest Spence on the War Graves Photographic Project website
Part of the St Oswald's Church website