Ernest James Benjamin Reeves

Date of birth: 12th January 1888
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: 77309
Rank: Corporal
Regiment: Royal Engineers
Battalion: 11th Corps Signals
Died: 4th November 1918 aged 30 years
Death location: Southampton


Life before the War
Ernest’s story is a little different to the vast majority of servicemen who perished in the Great War, in that he actually died in the UK.

According to the 1911 census Ernest was one of 13 siblings born to John Charles and Mary Elizabeth Beckford, nee Ransom.  John and Mary married in Southampton in 1867.  John was born in Southampton in 1841; he died in the city in 1906.  Mary was born in 1842 and passed away in Southampton in 1925.

The family lived on Shirley High Street where John was a Postmaster.

Sadly 5 of the Reeves children died young so naturally there is only obvious evidence for 8 of the surviving siblings, all of whom were born in Southampton:

Frederick John    b.1868 and d.1903 in Southampton.

George Beckford    b.1869 and d.1948 Devon.

Ellen Mary Beckford    b.1871 and  d.1871.

Thomas Edgar    b.1872 and d.1944 Southampton.  Married Bessie Alice Mutter in Southampton in 1897.

Rosa Winifred Beckford    b. 1875 and d.1959 Southampton.

Frank Beckford    b.1876 and d.1959 Southampton.

William Henry    b.1880 and d.1941 Southampton.


Service History
Ernest enlisted in the British Army on 1st November 1915 in Southampton and was assigned to the Royal Engineers as a Motor Cyclist.  Within one day of enlisting he was made a Corporal.  This appears to have been the minimum rank for all members of the fledgling Motor Cycle Corps.

On April 1st 1916 he joined the British Expeditionary Force in France.  Little is known about Ernest’s time between mid 1916 and spring 1918, although there is some evidence to suggest that he spent some time in the Italian theatre of war.

In late March 1918 Ernest had an accident with his motorbike in the field.  He was repatriated to a Red Cross hospital in Glasgow with broken bones and ribs.  Whilst in hospital Ernest was found to be suffering from tuberculosis and a medical review on 28th June decided that he should be permanently discharged from the Army as unfit for further duty.

Ernest was moved closer to home, to the Isolation Hospital in Mousehole Lane, Southampton.

On 4 November 1918, Ernest finally succumbed to the tuberculosis infection.

In his Will he left £908 12s 5d to his spinster sister Rosa.


Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 15th April 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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