Ernest Leonard Stelling was born in the summer of 1881, the oldest of six children to Charles and Bertha Stelling. Charles was a tailor from London, and while Ernest was born in Suffolk, by the time of the 1891 census, the family had settled in Reading, Berkshire.
Ernest followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a tailor and cutter in his own right. He met a woman from Reading called Lettie Eliza Mazey, and the couple married in 1904. The couple set up home with Lettie’s brother and his family in Tilehurst, but didn’t go on to have any children themselves.
Details of Ernest’s military service are a bit scarce. He initially enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, but quickly moved to the Somerset Light Infantry in the early stages of the First World War.
Sadly, no formal documents of Ernest’s time in the army are available, but a local newspaper gave a good insight into his Somerset service.
Death of a Master Tailor
After an illness of only seven days, the death took place at the military hospital on Monday afternoon of Sergeant EL Stelling, who has been master tailor of the Depot for the past two years. The cause of death was pneumonia, and the loss of so popular a member of the Depot staff is deeply regretted by all ranks.
Sergeant Stelling, who was 37 years of age, came to the Somersets from the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and succeeded the late Sergeant-Master-Tailor Chambers. He was a native of Reading, and one of four brothers serving their King and country. His father, Mr Charles Stelling, for many years carried on business as a master tailor in Reading.
Since he had been at Taunton barracks, Sergeant Stelling had made many friends, and actively identified himself with the social life of the sergeants’ mess, taking a prominent part in the arrangement of concerts, etc.
He was of a bright, generous disposition, and before his illness he was making a collection at the Depot on behalf of the Buffaloes’ Christmas treat to poor children of the town. He was a valued member of the local Lodge of the Royal Order of Buffaloes, and his death is greatly regretted by all the brethren.
He leaves a widow but no family. Much sympathy is felt for Mrs Stelling, who has for some years been a confirmed invalid.
The funeral took place with full military honours at St Mary’s Cemetery on Friday afternoon.Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 27th December 1916
This gives a real insight into Ernest’s personal life. He was obviously very active socially, and committed to the community. Whether Lettie’s infirmity contributed to the couple’s lack of family will never be known, but, from his support of the poor children of Taunton, it seems evident that he would have been a good family man.
The next document relating to Serjeant Stelling is his pension record; this confirms the news article’s report that he contracted pneumonia and influenza, and he succumbed to the conditions on 18th December 1916. He had, in fact, just turned 38 years old.
Ernest Leonard Stelling lies at rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in his wartime adopted home town of Taunton, Somerset.