CWG: Private Ernest Court

Private Ernest Court

Ernest Court was born in the autumn of 1865, one of eleven children to Stephen and Harriet Court. Stephen was an agricultural labourer from Kent, and the family were raised in the village of St Nicholas at Wade, in the north of the county.

When he left school, Ernest followed his father and became a farm labourer. The 1881 census found him working at St Nicholas Court Farm, under William Broadley, a farmer of some 500 acres (202 hectares).

In the summer of 1894, at the age of 28, Ernest married Catherine Henman; she was a widow nine hears his senior. The couple went on to have a son, Frederick, who was born the same year, a younger half-brother to Catherine’s own son. They soon moved to Faversham, where work was more abundant.

Ernest continued to pick up jobs where he could. The 1901 census recorded him working in the stone pits; the same document gave Catherine working as a charwoman to bring in some extra money. Ten years later, Ernest was working as a road labourer for the town council. Catherine was no longer employed, but Frederick, having left school, was working as a jobbing gardener.

War was approaching Europe by this point and, by October 1915, Ernest had stepped up to play his part. Private Court was assigned to the 3rd Supply Company of the 2nd/4th Battalion of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment). While a good proportion of the regiment served overseas, Ernest remained on home soil, and was given a protective role at the Cotton Powder Company and Explosives Loading Company factories to the north of Faversham.

Private Court was based at the factories on the 2nd April 1916. That afternoon a fire set off a series of massive explosions at the site and around 110 people – Ernest included – were killed. He was 50 years of age.

Ernest Court was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Faversham Explosion, in the town’s Borough Cemetery.

Memorial to the Faversham Explosion, Borough Cemetery

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