b. 16/08/1893 Norwich, Norfolk. d. 29/09/1918 Terhand, Belgium.
Ernest Seaman (1893-1918) was born on Wednesday 16th August 1893 Heigham, Norwich, England. Ernest Seaman was the youngest of seven sons to Henry and Sarah Elizabeth Seaman, who also had two daughters. Ernest went to the local Church of England school and was still quite young when his father died. His mother later married Edward Palmer, landlord of the Kings Head Inn at Scole, on the Norfolk / Suffolk border. Edward Palmer also ran a taxi service and pony and trap service from Diss station. The family moved to Scole and Ernest attended Scole Council School, and was remembered by school friends as “quiet and reserved, but kind and gentlemanly.” He was a plumpish short boy who soon acquired the nickname, ‘Peddler’ Palmer after his father.
Ernest Seaman left school at 14 and tried a variety of jobs before moving to Trimley in Suffolk where he lived with an aunt while working as a pageboy at the Grand Hotel in Felixstowe. He worked there for three years before emigrating to Canada in 1912. He returned to England in 1915 and tried to enlist in the Army, but was initially turned down as medically unfit, however, on 26th December 1915 he finally enlisted at Le Havre as A/367702 in the Army Service Corps (ASC) Canteens, where he was employed as a baker.
By 1917, because of heavy British casualties, more men were needed to fight, and after re-examination Ernie was transferred into the infantry. He joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and on 3rd February 1918 the battalion transferred to the 109th Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division. Army records show that had he survived the war he would have been transferred back to the bakery!
Ernest Seaman saw considerable action with the 2nd Battalion around Ypres and Passchendaele, being promoted to Lance Corporal in early September just fourteen days before he was killed. Ernest Seaman and his colleagues of ‘A’ Company were involved in fierce fighting near the tiny village of Terhand, north of the Menin Road, in the Ypres salient, it was here that he would lay down his life.
On 29th September 1918, when the right flank of his company was held up by a nest of enemy machine-guns, Lance-Corporal Seaman with great courage and initiative, rushed forward under heavy fire with his Lewis gun and engaged the machine gun position single-handed, capturing two machine-guns and 12 prisoners, and killing one officer and two men. Later in the day he again rushed another enemy machine-gun post, capturing the gun under very heavy fire. He was killed immediately afterwards.
Captain V.E.S. Mattocks, Officer Commanding A Company wrote: “He was one of the best soldiers whom I had ever met, an excellent soldier in every sense of the word, and very keen to do his duties. He always volunteered to help in any extra work that had to be done, no matter how dangerous or difficult, and for his constant devotion to duty and gallantry in voluntarily attending his wounded colleagues under heavy fire, I recommended his being awarded the Military Medal”.
Ernest’s body was not recovered after the action, and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Passchendaele. His commanding officer was incorrect, instead of a MM, Ernest was awarded a posthumous VC. On 13th February 1919 at Buckingham Palace, King George V presented the medal to Ernest Seaman’s mother Sarah. In the early 1940’s the medal was donated to the trustees of the Royal Army Service Corps, by Colonel W. Wordie OBE T.D. Honorary Colonel 52nd (Lowland) Divisional R.A.S.C., after it was purchased privately at a public auction. A replica medal is on display in the RCT Medal collection in the Officers Mess of the Royal Logistic Corps at Deepcut in Surrey. Viewing of this medal is by special appointment only, while the original remains locked away in a bank vault and is not available for viewing.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS MUSEUM, CAMBERLEY, SURREY.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – ON TYNE COT MEMORIAL, BELGIUM. PANEL 70-72.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Seaman VC Medal Group at the RLC Museum, Camberley, and Seaman VC’s name at St Anne’s, Belfast.
Scole Parish Council – Image of the Seaman VC Stone in Scole, Norfolk.