William Ernest Colman

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Carleton Rode, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom

General information

Last known residence:
Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, Canada
Deputy sheriff

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
 —  Canadian Infantry, 19th Bn. (Central Ontario)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Tiber, Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
Panel: Panel 26 G

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

William Ernest Colman was born on 20 July 1888 at Carleton Rode, Norfolk to William Bowles Colman, and his wife Caroline Selina Bryant. He had three sisters, Evelyn Mary, Doris May and Ruth Bryant; the family lived at Kendal Lodge. Ernest was the only son of a branch of the Colman family famous in Britain for ‘Colman’s Mustard’. Ernest’s father was a farmer and landowner, he was also a leading member of the local Baptist Church and the Justice of the Peace magistrate. After leaving school in Norwich, Ernest found employment as a bank clerk.

Ernest was educated at a school in Bracondale, Norwich and in 1911 he was working as a bank clerk. He emigrated to Canada in 1913. Ernest travelled to Kerrobert in Saskatchewan in March 1913, a new town being built in the Canadian prairies, along the Canadian Pacific Railway, where he had purchased land. By the time that he enlisted in February 1916, he had been made Deputy Sheriff.

Ernest received a training to become a signaller. In August 1917 he was eventually taken on by the 19th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment). In November 1917, the 19th was engaged at Passchendaele. Ever since 1915 the British high command had been toying with the idea of forcing a breakthrough in Flanders. But the Germans were prepared. A network of bunkers commanded the battlefield. After weeks of trudging through the mud, New Zealanders, Australians and South Africans joined the exhausted British divisions. Momentum was gained briefly, but then the attack stalled again. For the army high command, halting the offensive, however many lives that might save, was not an option. A victory, even a symbolic victory, was vital. Field Marshall Haig’s eye fell on Passchendaele. The heavily shelled village on top of the West Flemish ridge had been in German hands since 1914 and had assumed mythical proportions.

To win that prize, Haig turned to the Canadians. On the cold morning of 6 November, the Canadians took the ruins of Passchendaele. On 10 November the Canadians conducted their last large-scale attack of the offensive, taking the heights north of Passchendaele. The Canadians won the prize, yet the losses were unutterably heavy.

Ernest was killed on 10 November 1917. According to military documents: He “was instantly killed during an bombardment on the morning of November 10th 1917, while resting on the Passchendaele - Zonnebeke Road.” Ernest’s family were later told that he was hit by a shell whilst at the top of a pole repairing telegraph wires. Ernest was buried the along the Passchendaele - Broodseinde Road. His remains weren’t identified and he is remembered on the Menin Gate.

Sources 7

Carleton Rode Archive
Sources used
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG14).
Sources used
Cook T., Shock Troops: Canadians fighting the Great War 1917-1918. Volume II (Toronto, Penguin Canada, 2008) 316-364.
Sources used
Edmonds J.E. & Litt D. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence: Military operations France and Belgium, 1917. Volume II (London, Imperial War Museum, 1993) 346-358.
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1860 - 40).
Sources used
War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/314; Volume Number: 165).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 57).
Sources used