Ernest Thomas Needle

From towers to trenches, we remember Ernest Thomas Needle

The name of Ernest Thomas Needle is not recorded in the Great War Memorial Book of Church Bell Ringers; our knowledge of him being a fellow bellringer comes from a report in the local newspaper as well as a mention in the Chicheley Vestry Minutes. Further investigations into our archives show that T Needle was indeed a Guild member at Chicheley between 1913 and 1915.

The 1919 vestry minutes read “On Sunday April 6, by order of the Bishop, there was Special Memorial made for all the fallen soldiers & sailors from the County of Buckingham, which included the honoured memory of all those from Chicheley, and during the last 12 months, the great loss of Private Thomas Needle, late choirman and Bellringer who had been killed in September, and private Vesey Clarke who had died of wounds in France after heavy fighting, & just after the signing of the armistice, November12. At this Memorial, the returned Chicheley soldiers all came to the Church in their uniforms, over 24 of them being able to be present. Solemn Muffled Peals of bells were rung during the day.”

The Bucks standard report provides a little more insight: “Having joined the Forces on November 13th 1916 Private Ernest Thomas Needle, aged 23, of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, was officially reported as having been killed in France on September 2nd 1918. He was the eldest son of Mr & Mrs J Needle, and had been formerly employed as horse keeper to Mrs Waite of Hardmead. At the end of 1917 he suffered severe wounds at Ypres in the neck and head and subsequently spent 15 weeks in Dearnley Hospital, Manchester, before returning to France on June 3rd 1918. A staunch churchman, he had been a member of the Choir, the Chicheley Bellringers, and the Oxford Diocesan, Guild of Church Bellringers.”

Thomas (as he was known) was the eldest son of John William Needle and his wife Bona Kate. He had two younger brothers, Walter John and Albert James. In 1911 the family were living in “Little End” Chicheley and Thomas was employed as a farm labourer.

In 1901 the family were living at number 8 Little End, Chicheley with Bona’s father William Wright who was a 67 year old widower. Both William and his son in law were employed as ordinary agricultural labourers.

Thomas was born on the 10th March 1895 and was baptised 14th April 1895 at Chicheley. He enlisted on the 3rd December 1915 in the Royal Marine Light Infantry Plymouth Division Short Service.

Thomas was re-buried in plot V. F. 23 at Queant Road Cemetery, Buissy, amongst a number of unknown British and Australian soldiers. The site of his original burial was marked by a cross recording his name but not his date of death.

Information sources

Census records for 1911, 1901

Commonwealth war graves commission

Buckinghamshire remembers

Chicheley Vestry Minutes

In Touch (November 2010)

The National Archives