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Ernest was born in Wolverhampton on 18 May 1895, the son of Joseph and Maria Jane Downing. They were living at 104 Lichfield Street, Wednesfield in 1901, along with Ernest’s siblings George, Joseph L. and Mary. By 1911, they were at Wood End Farm, Wednesfield, and Ernest was employed working on the farm.

On 15 December 1915, Ernest enlisted with the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 49116). His trade was now given as “Cowman”. There is also a note on his service record that states “Experienced horseman. would be suitable for any mounted Branch of the Service.” However, he does not appear to have been mobilised until 25 May 1918. He survived the war, and was demobilised in 1919.

He died in Wolverhampton in 1975.