Ernest Albert Hills was born in December 1877, and was the fifth of ten children to Benjamin and Elizabeth Hills. Benjamin was a labourer for a brick maker from the Kent village of Upnor, but it was along the coast in Faversham that he and Elizabeth were to raise their young family.
When he left school, Ernest followed in his father’s footsteps, working in the local brick kiln. By the time of the 1911 census, however, he had moved to South East London and was boarding with his younger brother, William, working with him as a stoker for a Greenwich gas company.
War came to Europe, and Ernest wanted to play his part. On 20th April 1915, he enlisted, joining the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) as a Private. His service records give his height as 5ft 9.75ins (1.77m) and note that he had a scar on the right side of his abdomen.
Private Hills’ service was carried out on home soil: he was assigned to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, which was based in Maidstone and Chatham. Ernest was obviously well thought of: within six months of enlisting, he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
His good fortune was not to last for long, however, in the spring of 1916, he fell ill and, while at his family home in March, he passed away, having been suffering from Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the disorder of the adrenal glands. He was 39 years of age.
Lance Corporal Ernest Albert Hills was laid to rest in the Faversham Borough Cemetery, not far from his family home, and where his father – who had passed away in 1903 – had also been laid to rest.