Three Le Maistre brothers' Great War service
Ernest John Le Maistre was a much decorated soldier in the Great War, winning, among other medals, the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry
Brothers Albert William, Ernest John and George Alfred Le Maistre all appear in the Jersey Roll of Service on the Channel Island Great War Study Group's website. They are listed as brothers and shown to have served in the Royal Field Artillery.
They were not born in Jersey, although their father, George Alfred William Le Maistre, was born in Trinity in 1858, the son of Daniel Le Maistre and Mary Ann Dorey. George Alfred William was a blacksmith's apprentice in 1871, and ten years later, at the age of 23, as a fully-fledged blacksmith, he was still living at home, in Craig Street, St Helier, with his parents and younger sister Eliza.
Some time after this he moved to England and in 1877 married Nora, who was born in Neath, South Wales, and whose surname we have not been able to find. They were living in Woolwich in 1888 when their first son, Ernest John, was born, and in Portsmouth when George Alfred was born in 1890. By 1891 the census shows that the family had moved to Cheriton, in Kent. George snr was a farrier sergeant in the Army.
Some time after, his work must have taken him, and his family, to Sangor, on India's North-west frontier, where Albert William was born in 1895.
Eldest son Ernest, then aged 15, joined the Royal Artillery in June 1903, in Trimulgherry, India, now again known as Tirumalagiri. He served in India until 1910.
By 1911 George had left the Army and he, Nora and Albert William were living in St Clement, Jersey. George was again working as a blacksmith.
Ernest had a very successful Army career, rising to the rank of Battery Sergeant Major in 23rd Battery, Royal Field Artillery, and was much decorated. His medals were sold at auction in 2006. They included the Military Cross, second only to the Victoria Cross for acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy by soldiers of his rank. He was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, as well as a succession of First World War service medals.
The London Gazette of 7 March 1918 has this entry:
- 'BSM Ernest John Le Maistre, RFA
- 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. A bomb was dropped by an enemy aeroplane on an ammunition dump and set fire to some boxes and camouflage. He at once ran to the place and, together with his officer, separated the burning boxes and camouflage which was burning on the top of boxes containing live rounds. There is no doubt that by their prompt action they saved a large number of rounds from being destroyed, and also prevented many casualties.'
After returning from India he served in the UK until the outbreak of the First World War, and was then in France continuously, apart from a short period of leave until the end of the war. He then returned to England and served there from 1919 to 1932. In addition to a number of medals awarded for war service, he received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
He was outranked by his younger brother, George Alfred, who was a commissioned officer with the rank of Lieutenant in 507th battery, Royal Field Artillery. The youngest of the three, Albert Edward, became a sapper in the Royal Field Artillery, joining up after service in the Royal Militia Island of Jersey.
Tracing the ancestry of the brothers proved somewhat difficult. Although they are shown as brothers in the Great War Study Group's database of those with Jersey connections who served during the Great War, no details of their births or parents are included.
A check of our own database of church records and central birth registrations, established that they were not born or baptised in Jersey, and the family's history was eventually established from information in various online family trees, then enabling us to assemble the earlier generations of a family tree from our database.