Monday, September 08, 2014

G/5793 Pte Ernest Arthur Malins, 6th Royal West Kent Regiment

G/5793 Lance-Corporal Ernest Malins was a convalescent patient at Hickwells in July 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album, dated 12th July 1915, accompanies a pencil drawing of The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent cap badge and reads:

With best wishes
Lc Cp Malins
5793 Royal West Kent
3rd Batt.
H Comp
Upper Barracks Chatham

Ernest Arthur Malins was born at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, around January 1881. He appears on the 1881 census as a three month old infant living in Kingston with his family. The household comprised: Thomas Andrew Malins (head, married, aged 35, working as a coach painter), his wife Elizabeth Ann Malins (aged 32) and their six children: Evelina Rebecca Malins (aged ten), Alice Maud Malins (aged eight), Thomas Edward Malins (aged six), Albert Andrew Malins (aged four), Annie Laura (aged two) and Ernest.

By the time the 1891 census was taken, Evelina and Alice had moved away from the family home in Bittoms Lane, Kingston, but there were three other children: Edgar Morris Malins (aged eight), Archibald D Malins (aged four) and Sidney Howard W Malins (aged one). Thomas Malins is recorded on the 1891 census as a coach builder. Also noted on the same page of the 1891 census is the household headed by Robert Porter Malins (Thomas Andrew’s younger brother). He was married, aged 39 and working as a wheelwright. He and his wife, Georgina (also aged 39), had five children living with them: Emily Frances Malins (aged 17), John George Malins (aged 15), Jessie May Malins (aged 11), Maggie Elizabeth Malins (aged six) and William Andrew Malins (aged one). At least four Malins children also died in infancy - Nellie Malins in 1883, Frederick Herbert Malins and Thomas Charles Malins in 1891 and Richard Henry W Malins in 1896. All four children were under one year old and all were almost certainly children or grandchildren of Thomas and Robert.

I have been unable to find Ernest on the 1901 census but his parents were living at 75 Bridge Street West, Battersea, south London. The household had shrunk somewhat. Thomas is noted as a coach painter and writer and besides his wife there are just two children living with them: Warren A D Malins (aged 14, working as a railway clerk) and Sidney. Warren appears on the 1891 census as Archibald D Malins although his birth was registered (in the September quarter of 1886) as Warren Archibald D Malins.

Ernest married Harriet Hayward in 1909, their marriage registered in the December quarter of that year in the district of Wandsworth. On 22nd February 1915, he attested with the Royal West Kent Regiment at Kingston, with his brother Sidney (who appears to have attested under the name of Howard W Malins). The surviving recruitment registers for Kingston note that Ernest was 33 years and one month old, was five feet six and three eighths of an inch tall and weighed 152 pounds. His occupation is recorded as grocer’s assistant and his home address noted as 53 Rye Hill Road, Peckham, south east London. His brother Howard (aged 25 years and ten months) is recorded as being slightly taller than Ernest at five feet eight and three quarter inches, and two pounds heavier. He was occupied as a motor brush maker and living at 35 Trott Street, Battersea.

The following month, Ernest and Howard’s cousin William (aged 24) also attested at Kingston (on the 26th), joining the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was five feet, four and a half inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. Under “distinctive marks”, tattoos are noted.

There appears to be some discrepancy about Ernest’s age. According to the 1881 census, taken on the night of 3rd April 1881, Ernest was three months old. This places his date of birth to January 1881 and would have made him 34 years and one month old in February 1915, not 33 years as noted in the recruitment register. There is a similar discrepancy regarding William Malin’s age, aged one in 1891 according to the census but only just aged 24 in March 1915 (according to the recruitment register for Kingston).

It is unclear which battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment Ernest was posted to after he attested but he would probably have been in hospital prior to his time at Hickwells as it was still a convalescent home in July 1915. He must have recovered sufficiently however because he was posted to the 6th Royal West Kent Regiment (part of the 37th Brigade in the 12th Division) and was killed in action whilst serving with this battalion on 2nd July 1916. The 6th RWK, had spent the morning clearing trenches of dead and wounded and in the afternoon had been ordered to take over the support trenches. In the afternoon, during the relief, 2nd Lieutenant Hoyland and 28 other ranks were wounded and four men – including Ernest Malins - were killed. At nine o’clock in the evening the men were ordered back to their former position south of Ovillers. The following day the battalion lost a further 375 men killed, wounded or missing in an attack and counter attack the following day.

Ernest Malins’s body was never found and he is commemorated on pier and face 11C of The Thiepval Memorial on The Somme. Howard and William Malins both appear to have survived. Soldiers Died in The Great War gives Ernest's number as G/5793 although he omits this in Nurse Oliver's album. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission incorrectly states his number as G/15793.

The photo below shows Ernest (left) and his brother Sidney Howard Williams Malins at home in England with their parents. My thanks to Sam for sending this.

Somewhat drunken medal index card courtesy of Ancestry; name detail at Thiepval courtesy of Garth McGowen.

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