Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sgt Ernest Arthur Bastin, MM



Ernest was the brother of Arthur Richard Bastin, who had died just after the war in North Evington War Hospital (see previous post). Ernie had been at camp on Salisbury Plain with the 1st Wessex Field Ambulance when war was declared and he was mobilised straight away as part of 24 Field Ambulance, Regt No: 1759 (later 457072 after the TF re-numbering).

Born in 1883, Ernie was the second son of the Bastin family, with three older siblings, and four younger. He married Clara Sercombe in 1906 and they settled in Churchill Road, St Thomas. Ernie was, by 1911, a Foreman Candle Maker. He does not name the company he worked for but does write down that it was a soap and candle manufacturing company.  J L Thomas had the "Sunlight" Soap factory near the river by St Thomas and it is probably here that Ernest worked. He and Clara also had two children, Ernest Stanley born 1907, and Rosalind born 1909. (Neither would make "old bones").

On the 25th September 1915, Ernie was a Corporal in charge of a squad of Bearers. The 8th Division was taking part in a diversionary attack at Bois Grenier to assist the main effort at the Battle of Loos (somewhat optimistically nicknamed "the Big Push") and Ernie's squad was assisting with picking up wounded from the trenches. For several hours, Ernie coolly led his squad whilst under heavy shell-fire and at one point they were buried by a nearby shell burst. Then, L/Cpl Snow, a member of his party, was wounded in the thigh. He carried him away from danger and dressed the wound, thereby saving the soldier from certain death. For these actions, he was awarded the Military Medal (gazetted over a year later in November 1916).

Sadly, at the end of 1917, his wife Clara died, age 32. We do not know what the cause of her death was, but only a few lines in the local paper denote that she was sadly missed by her husband, Ernie, serving with 24th Field Ambulance. We do not know whether Sgt Bastin was allowed home to care for his young children, although he had a large extended family who would have looked after them. They would have been called in to help once again, when Ernie died just over two years after his brother on the 3rd March 1921. He was buried under a CWGC headstone in St Thomas' Cemetery, which indicates that he was probably still serving in the Army at the time. He is also commemorated on the Plaque in Exeter Cathedral.

The Bastins also had another brother, Sydney, who became a S/Sgt in the RAMC during the war. Bastin was a common Devon name and many served, and died, during the war.


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