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1889 –1919

Early Life

ERNEST TOKLEY was born in February 1899 at Breeds, Great Waltham Road the youngest of three sons, born to James and Alice Tokley (née Tyrrell).


James and Alice were married on the 28th February 1891 at the Holy Trinity Church in the Parish of Lambeth, London. James, aged 21 years, was a Carman, born in Mount Bures, Essex and Alice, aged 22 years was born in Great Waltham. They were living at 22 Stangate Street, Lambeth at the time of their marriage and on the 13th January 1892, their first son, Arthur was born in Lambeth.


In 1893, the family had moved to Breeds, in Great Waltham and a second son, Herbert was born on the 10th September 1896, before Ernest was born in 1899. James was now an Ordinary Agricultural Labourer.


Herbert Tokley Gt Waltham School about 1902

The 1911 Census shows the family still living at Breeds, with James and Arthur, both Farm Labourers, Herbert a machinist at a Ball Bearing Manufacturer (probably Hoffman’s) and Ernest at school.


Ernest left school and in November 1915 started work at Messrs H & T C Godfrey at Tindal Square, in Chelmsford as a Shop Assistant and Porter. However, at the beginning of March 1917, he was in court at Chelmsford with two other offenders, accused of stealing four pairs of gloves, two canes, a pair of braces, one cap cover, a tin of soldiers’ friend, value 10s and two 10s Treasury Notes and 3 shillings from his employer. He pleaded guilty, and although the Mayor had considered the whip as punishment, he was fined £5 which he paid from his savings (about £187 today!)

Military Life

Perhaps because Ernest had been dismissed from his job, shortly afterwards, on the 16th March 1917 he enlisted at the age of 17 years 11 months at Chelmsford. As a Private, Regimental No. TR13/54122 he was mobilised at Warley on the 18th April into the 17th Training Reserve Battalion at Luton, Bedfordshire, then transferred to the 22nd Training Reserve Battalion at Dovercourt.


He served in France, from the 19th April 1917 as a Rifleman and on the 4th July he returned England where he served at home.


On the 1st December 1917 he transferred to the 52nd G Battalion TR Kings Royal Rifles Corps, Regimental No.44024 and was posted to France on the 2nd April 1918.


It is thought Ernest caught advanced bronchitis in Boulogne and on the 4th August 1918, he was admitted to the No. 2 Canadian Stationary Field Hospital in France with pulmonary tuberculosis and then transferred to the Suffolk Hospital at Ampton, Bury St Edmunds in England on the 21st August. On the 31st August 1918 he was transferred to the General Hospital in Colchester where TB was confirmed. The Medical Officer stated that the illness was caused by ‘so often keeping on wet clothing when on active service.’

On the 12th September Ernest was declared ‘permanently unfit’. He was discharged on the 2nd October 1918 and recommended treatment at a Sanatorium.

Death and Memorial

Ernest died on the 29th April 1919, aged 20 years and was buried on the 5th May in Great Waltham Churchyard. On the 15th April 1975 a Portland Stone Commonwealth war grave headstone was ordered and erected on the 30th July 1975.


Ernest is also remembered on the War Memorial in Great Waltham.

Headstone reads

“A Beloved Son and Brother”

“I am the Resurrection and

The Life”

Medal Card.jpg

Medal Card Ernest Tokley

Ernest was awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal.

James Tokley, his father was also a Lay Preacher at Howe Street Primitive Methodist Chapel. The site for the Chapel was purchased on the 27 July 1860 for £10. The Chapel was built at a cost of £231.6s.5d. and opened on the 23rd December 1860.


Arthur, his brother, was also a Lay Preacher and Superintended for over 30 years and arranged several summer Sunday school outings to Southend during the early 1930s.


His parents, James and Alice celebrated over 50 years of marriage and are buried in the Churchyard. Alice was also the Secretary of the local Women’s Own organisation for 26 years.


Herbert married Louisa May Thurley from Littley Green on the 13th July 1915 in the Parish Church, Great Waltham and moved to Ipswich.

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