Ernest Augustus JENTSCH
Eyes grey, Hair light brown, Complexion fresh
Ernest’s early life
Ernest Jentsch was born on 20 August 1893 to Alice (nee Dodson) and Felix Jentsch in Enmore, now an inner west suburb of Sydney. He had just one sibling who survived to adulthood, his sister, Muriel, who was five years his junior.
Ernest was educated at the Petersham Superior Public School and later employed as a clerk at Tooth’s Brewery head office. Records show that he was a keen motorcyclist - a skill noted on his enlistment papers.
Called to war
Aged 21, Ernest enlisted in June 1915 and underwent his basic training at the Liverpool camp and for a time served on headquarters’ staff as a pay corporal. He was allocated to the 3rd Battalion (11th reinforcements), leaving Australia in November and arriving in Egypt just prior to Christmas 1915. Early in 1916 he was reassigned to the 53rd Battalion and, in May, he was promoted to Corporal and then Lance Sergeant.
After completing training in Egypt in June, the 53rd left for France and entered the trenches of the Western Front on 10 July. Their first major battle was at Fromelles just nine days later, a disaster resulting in casualties totalling more than three-quarters of their fighting strength.
Lance Sergeant Ernest Jentsch was one of those many casualties. His family were notified in late August 1916 that their only son had been killed in action in France.
There were two reports as to Ernest’s fate, both from fellow members of the 53rd Battalion.
From Coy Sergeant Major Louis GALE 3305:
"Jentch (sic) was killed instantly by a shell at about 6p.m. on July 19 / 16, during our attack at Fromelles. This was out in the open. I do not know what afterwards became of his body. I did not see Jentch (sic) killed myself. He was the only man of his name in the Batt."
From Cpl Lawrence PERRY 3571A:
"I saw Jentsch on July 19th at dusk with his head blown off."
Ernest’s name also appeared on the German death list and his identification disc was eventually returned to his father as next of kin.
Ernest was never forgotten with his parents, sister and extended family placing memorial notices in Sydney newspapers for many years. The notices often included his cousin Pte Harold Salmon 2499 who was killed in action on 8 June 1917. Ernest was also commemorated on war memorials, both local and national and in France.
- V.C Corner Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles
- Australian War Memorial, Canberra
- Roll of Honour for the sons of members of the Ashfield Bowling Club (at right)
- St Andrew’s Anglican Church First World War Roll of Honour, Summer Hill
A century later, still remembered
In 2009, a mass grave was located in Pheasant Wood, very near the site of the battle at Fromelles in July 1916. The remains of Ernest Jentsch were identified through DNA testing and are now buried in a marked grave in the new Fromelles Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery.
2010 Dedication ceremony
Ernest’s new headstone was dedicated at the July 2010 official opening ceremony for the new military cemetery. Members of Ernest’s family were in attendance, including Annette Darling Tebb who had done much of the work to have her relative identified.
In the months prior to the opening ceremony, 249 of the 250 soldiers exhumed from the original mass grave were buried in individual ceremonies with full honours. The last soldier, as yet unidentified, was buried as part of the official opening. Annette and her family knew that their Ernest was in the grave immediately beside that unknown soldier.
Coincidentally, just days prior to the ceremony Annette and her family met another Australian family during a train trip to Lille and discovered that they too were to be at the ceremony at Fromelles to honour their family member, Private William Joseph Cuckson, also of the 53rd Battalion. Amazingly, they discovered that William was buried on the other side of Ernest. It is considered that, Ernest, William and the unknown soldier lay side by side for 94 years in the original burial pit as the authorities had made every effort to bury the soldiers with, or as close to, those who they were found with. All three are again buried side by side in the new cemetery, buried with dignity and honour.
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