Ernest Western was born in Ashreigney in about 1887, the only child of a small farming family. In 1901, aged 14, he was employed on Ward Farm, Winkleigh, by John Shepherd. By 1911, aged 24, he had returned home to help his parents, Amos, already 77 years old and his wife Elizabeth a younger 56 year old. The family were living at Stablegreen farm.
With the outbreak of war, Ernest enlisted at once, his name proudly included in the list of those who were serving in the first weeks of the war, in the Royal North Devon Hussars, published in the Ashreigney Deanery Magazine for November 1914. Sadly, no medal card for Ernest Western has survived, and there are no surviving records of the service.
We do not know whether Ernest joined the Royal North Devon Yeomanry whose headquarters were in Barnstaple, or the 1st Devon Yeomanry who were based in Exeter. However the two units shared a similar history and indeed were merged on 4th January 1917. Both were part of the 2nd South-West Mounted Brigade, but already by early 1915 it was becoming apparent that mounted troops would be of very limited use in trench warfare. In October 1915 the Yeomanry were dismounted and sent to Gallipoli. Their experiences there are recorded on this site as part of the war service of Frederick William Davey, who was killed by a Turkish sniper on Gallipoli on 8th November 1915, and who may well have been a friend of Ernest Western. On 30th December 1915 the Yeomany were withdrawn to Egypt.
Still in Egypt and following the merger in January 1917 the two units formed the 16th (Royal 1st Devon and North Devon Yeomanry Battalion) and came unde r orders of the 229th Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The Battalion finally moved to France on 7th May 1918, moving from Egypt to Marseilles.