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Ernest was born in Wolverhampton in 1895, the son of Jesse (the principal of the Higher Grade School) and Sarah Elizabeth West. In 1901 they were living at 25 Larches Lane, Wolverhampton, together with Ernest’s sister, Jessie. By 1911, they were living at Glengarry, Coalway Road, Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, with an additional son, Harold Edgoose. Ernest attended Wolverhampton Grammar School, and later began a degree in Dentistry. However, he abandoned this and became a motor tester at the Clyno Engineering factory in Wolverhampton

On 8 November 1915, Ernest enlisted in the 626 Company of the Motor Transport section of the Royal Army Service Corps (service number 13774). He suffered from various bouts of malaria, but recovered. It was when he was on probation with the Royal Air Force as a Cadet that he died on 18 December 1918 at the British base in hospital in Mombasa, East Africa, of Blackwater Fever. He is buried at Mombasa (Mbaraki) Cemetery in Kenya, and remembered on the roll of honour of Darlington Street Methodist Church, St Phillip’s Memorial in Penn, and the Higher Grade School.