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  • Christina Drummond

Rifleman Ernest Franklin, 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Rifleman Ernest Franklin, 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action during the Battle of Loos.

At the outbreak of the Great War he had held the position of butler of a house in Drogheda, County Louth in Ireland. By the time of his death, his battalion had spent almost a full year in the trenches. They had prepared for deployment to France during September and October of 1914, then arrived near Laventie in the Pas de Calais at the beginning of November. They saw action at the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle the following March, and while they helped to secure the village they suffered heavy casualties: nineteen officers including their colonel, as well as 440 men from other ranks. Two months later they once again saw success tempered by heavy casualties at the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

Rifleman Franklin lost his life on the first day of the Battle of Loos, which was the biggest attack of 1915 by the British, and the first time that they used poison gas. His family received this information in a letter from the British Red Cross: “I regret to say that the only news about the above is extremely sad. Rifleman Whitford, 8990, Machine Gun Section, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, now in hospital abroad, place unknown, says that Pte Franklin was killed in the action of September 25th, Rfm says :- "I did not see him killed myself , but I saw him lying dead on the field afterwards, when we were retiring. I went close to him and I know that he was dead." We never take a single report of death as final as even eye witnesses are sometimes mistaken. We are therefore continuing our enquiries, besides watching the Prisoners' Lists from Germany for Pte Franklin's name. If you wish to write to Rfm Whitford, the only way to do so is by writing C/o the Record Office at Dublin, marked "Please Forward" With much sympathy for your suspense…”

His body had not been recovered from the battlefield, but it is assumed that he was indeed killed in action, as averred by Rifleman Whitford. His name appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing, which is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial at Hainault in Belgium. The memorial contains the names of 11,367 missing soldiers from the battles which were fought in the area around the village of Ploegsteert.

Ernest, born in Coventry in Warwickshire, was married - his daughter was born the day after his death.

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