Clifton Rugby Football Club History
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Ernest Gardiner


Major Ernest Gardiner - Regiment:Royal Engineers Unit Text:1st (South Midland) Field Coy. Age:34 Date of Death:02/03/1915 Additional information:Son of Thomas Chapple Gardiner and Sarah Bishop Gardiner, of "Waratah" Beaufort Rd., Clifton, Bristol; husband of Kathleen Eleanor Wellesley-Bigsworth (formerly Gardiner). Casualty Type:Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference:Panel 9 Cemetery:YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL. The Memorial also includes the name of ex Clifton RFC player A.E.J.Collins whos body was never found.

awaiting photo

Above "Waratah" Beaufort Road, Clifton, Bristol

Above section of Clifton RFC player J.H.Savory's letter of 5th March 1915 which mentions Ernest Gardiner's death. It says - "You will have heard by now of our misfortunes during that scrap at the beginning of the week. Richard and I were of course in for the first night as we finished up the last spell. The following morning the men bought back the news of Gardiners death. I think it was from a bomb. We can still hardly realize it and it is much too sad for me to try to write about just ow. We all feel rather mournful but of course have to keep ourselves and the men as cheerful as possible under the circumstances. Cyril Hosegood wrote to his people the following day and by now I think they must have heard about it. Please on no account let this letter be the means of their gettign the news. Then you will have heard too that Owen has left here. He got hit across the nose, than God it is not serious."

Bristol Evening News March 6th 1915

E. Gardiner Killed in Action ... By an announcement in...columns that Major E. Gardiner,..Mr T.C.Gardiner of Essendene..killed in action on March 1st..serving with the South Midland...older & citizens generally will..the widow and family of their bereavement.

Major Ernest Gardiner Bristol evening News April 2nd 1915

Old Cliftonians and the War Old Cliftonian Roll of Honour

Reported March. Major E. Gardiner Royal Engineers.

The 1947 Clifton College Register for May 1889 says

4101 Gardiner, Ernest; b.16.3.80.; br. 3601, 4101, 4367; NT; c-5c; L1896; 1914 War, Maj., R.E., T., W. Front, M. in D.; k.(action), 1915.

The 1912 Clifton College Register added that he was the son of T.C.Gardiner, Clifton. The address is given as Essendene, Clifton.

He joined Clifton RFC in 1900-01.

Above Ernest Gardiner from the 1908-09 Clifton 1st XV photo.

Above Essendene, situated at the top of Pembroke Road.


Above Ernest Gardiners signature from 1901.

Back Row (L-R): Ernest, Edith, Hubert, Edward Lucas. Seated: Agnes, Thomas Chapple, Sarah, Florence, Ethel, Alfred

Above the Gardiner family, Parents and 4 sons (3 who all played for Clifton) and 4 daughters, just before World War 1.


Above Bill Head of Gardiner & Sons.

Above 2 photos of Ernest Gardiner in Military Uniform.

Above Gardiner from The Illustrated London News on 20th March 1915

Above his brother, Edward John Lucas Gardiner, born 16th Feb 1875, Clifton College 1886-1890 was Capt. late 2nd Glos RE Vols. He was Chairman and Man. Dir of Gardiner & Sons. His son was Chris Gardiner who went on to play for Clifton.

Major Ernest Gardiner, 1st Field Company, South Midland Royal Engineers, cossed to France in December 1914 in command of his Company, which had been attached to the 27th Division of the Regular Army.

This Company was the first unit of the Bristol Territorials to go to the front, and he was the first officer killed.

His death occurred at St. Eloi on the 2nd March 1915.

He with his Company, joined the King's Royal Rifles in attacking and capturing a German trench.

Having completed this work, he collected and sent back some 10 or 12 wounded. He was again leading his men forward to assist the King's Royal Rifles in repulsing a counter attack, when he was shot through the head and died instantaneously.

Shortly after his death the Germans suceeded in driving our men out of the captured trench and also sut off our front line trench, so his body was never recovered.

Extract from report of General Smith-Dorrien

"The 1st S.M. Field Coy. appears to have done especially well and I hope the report that their gallant commander, Major Gardiner, is killed, and another officer is missing, may prove to be untrue."

Extract from report of General Plumer.

"General Plumer has directed Gen. Snow to convey to engineer officers and men his hearty appreciation of their gallant and skilled work in assisting the infantry under heavy fire the last few nights. Please convey this message to S.M.Field Coy."

Extract from War Office letter.

"I have it in command from His majesty the King to inform you, as next of kin of the late MAJOR ERNEST GARDINER of the Royal Engineers (Territorial Force) that this officer was mentioned in a Despatch from Field Marshall Sir John French dated the 31st May 1915, and published in the London Gazette dated the 22nd June 1915, for gallant and distinguished service in the field."

Excerpts from the book 'Bristol and the Great War'

Gardiner and Clissold In July (1917) the Royal Engineers moved northwards to take part in the Third Battle of Ypres, which began on July 31st and continued for 3 months. They remained in this area till the early part of October and experienced their most dangerous and difficult task in the whole war, sustaining heavy casualties. It was during this period that the 47th Field Company, whose first commanding officer, Major Ernest Gardiner, had been killed at St Eloi in March 1915, suffered a similar loss in the death of Major H Clissold DSO, who was killed by shell fire while engaged in work in the forward area. The section of the line occupied by the 48th Division was in front of St Julien and with the exception of one short spell of rest in the neighbourhood of St Omer, the Royal Engineers were continuously employed in the very arduous work with the nature of the ground and the difficult conditions entailed. No one was sorry when in October the division were ordered to the Vimy sector, to take over a quiet position of the line from the 2nd Canadian Division.


His name on the Clifton College Memorial Arch.

Above the Clifton College Memorial arch at the entrance to Clifton College in 2008.

His nephew went on to Clifton College and play for Clifton Club. He received the DSO in 1940

Bristol Evening Post Monday 9th August 1940

Major Christopher J. Gardiner RE, a Bristolian, has been awarded the DSO. Major Gardiner is the son of Mr E.J.L. Gardiner of Gardiner & Sons & Co. Ltd Bristol Engineering and Ironmongers. Educated at Clifton College, he played rugby for Clifton.

Above his son Chris Gardiner from the Clifton XV photo of 1929-30

Gardiner & Sons are now known today as Gardiner Haskins, a large diy store near the main Bristol Evening Post building.