Ernest Edgar Waller was born in 1873 in Bengeo, Hertford and baptised on the 19th October 1873 at St. Leonard & Holy Trinity Church, Bengeo.
His father, Joseph Waller, was born in 1838 at Waterford. He married his mother Mary Smith nee Foster, who was born in 1831 at High Cross, on the 30th March 1861 at Holy Trinity Church, Bengeo. Joseph was recorded as a bachelor and a labourer from Bengeo and his father Thomas Waller as a labourer. Mary was recorded as a widow of Bengeo and her father George Foster as a labourer.
Mary had previously married Daniel Smith on the 13th December 1851 at High Cross. He sadly died in 1858. Mary and Daniel had a daughter, Mary Ann Smith, who was born in 1858 at Potters Green and baptised on the 15th August 1858 at High Cross. The baptismal record shows her mother to be Mary Ann Smith, a widow of High Cross.
According to the 1911 census Joseph and Mary had two children, one of whom died before 1911. Mary’s daughter Mary Ann appears as Waller in all of the census returns until she married (she married as Smith) and she died in 1904 and may therefore be the child referred to in the 1911 census.
During the 1861 census Joseph, an Oil Cake Maker, Mary and Mary Ann aged 3 years were listed as living at Port Hill Common, Bengeo. By the time of the 1871 census they were recorded as living at Bengeo Street, Bengeo and Joseph was working as an Engine Driver in a mill.
At the time of the 1881 census the family were living at 89, Bengeo Street, Bengeo. Joseph was employed as a Labourer and Ernest was at school, but, a few days before the 1891 census he had left home and had joined the Army. His parents were now living at Waterloo Terrace, Bengeo Street, Bengeo.
Ernest’s Army Service Record has survived and shows that on the 2nd April 1891 he enlisted at Hertford for short service of seven years in the Colours and five in the Reserve as Private 3789 in the Bedfordshire Regiment.
The following was recorded. He gave his name as Ernest Waller, omitting his middle name, and said he was 18 years 8 months old and he was born in Bengeo. He said he was a labourer, that he was not an apprentice, was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and had never served in the Military before.
He was medically examined when he joined the Regiment at Bedford on the 3rd April 1891 and found to be fit for Army service.
His description on enlistment was recorded as follows: Apparent age 18 years 8 months, height 5 feet 8 ¼ inches, weight 144 lbs., chest 34 to 36 inches, complexion darkish, eyes hazel, hair black, identifying marks tattoos 2 men in boxing attitude, rose, “Kilbrain” and “Jim Smith,” on right upper arm; “A. Marsh,” ” J. Cole,” a cannon with “Ready For Action” above, a sailor playing violin and dancing on rum barrel, a woman’s head on right forearm; Maltese Cross “J. Gray” on right wrist; a sailor mounting rigging on left upper arm; sailor and flag, Dove carrying letters with “To My Love,” mans bust, “P. Crocott,” sailors head, “W. Wray,” “A.E. Howorth,” and Maltese Cross on left forearm.
He stated that his religion was Church of England and his next of kin was his father Joseph Waller of Waterloo Villas, Bengeo and that he had no brothers.
The 1891 census records that Ernest Waller was a recruit Infantry Soldier in the Regular Army of the Bedfordshire Regiment at their Barracks at Kempston, Bedford.
His Statement of Service records that on the 10th April 1892 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. On the 5th March 1894 he was granted his 1st Good Conduct Pay of 1d. per day. On the 30th October 1895 he was appointed as a drummer.
From the marriage banns Ernest Edgar Waller, a bachelor of St. Michaels Parish, Aldershot married Sarah Emily Hemmings in April 1896 at St. Leonard & Holy Trinity Church, Bengeo. Emily was born in 1871 at Ware. In the 1891 census she was employed as a general domestic servant for a Miss Cruttwell of New Road, Ware. They had a son, Ernest Frederick Waller born in 1896 at Ware.
On the 2nd April 1897 Ernest was granted his 2nd Good Conduct Pay of 2d. per day. On the 1st June 1897 he reverted to being a Private. On the 18th June 1897 he was transferred to the Army Reserve with his consent on the expiration of his period of Army service.
It is believed that Ernest then applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
Ernest’s Police Service Record has not survived, and his exact date of Appointment is not known but, from a later newspaper article, he appears to have joined in 1897 and another source suggests he may have been Constable 70.
As was the Policy at the time he would have been posted a long distance away from his home town to a main station. Here he would have undergone his Probationary training under the guidance of an experienced officer whilst under the supervision of the Divisional Superintendent.
The following newspaper articles show he was posted to C Division at Rickmansworth.
Drunk And Disorderly.
Published in the Herts Advertiser on Saturday 28th October 1899 under the headline He Refused To Go Home: Frederick Lane, Mill End, Rickmansworth, was summoned for being drank and disorderly on October 14th. Defendant did not appear. PC Waller said that on Saturday he was on duty in Rickmansworth, when he saw the defendant, who was drunk and wanted to fight. He said that he would not go home as he had no home to go to. A fine of 7s.6d. was imposed.
Recalled To The Colours. Boer War.
Published in the Watford Observer on Saturday 18th November 1899 under the headline Policeman For The Fight: Three of the Constables in this Division of the Hertfordshire Constabulary have been recalled to the Colours. Police Constable Hyiatt (Rickmansworth) started for the Cape some weeks ago, and now Police Constable Hunt (Watford) and Police Constable Waller (Rickmansworth) have received notice from the War Office that their services will be required.
Ernest’s Army Service Record shows that on the 4th December 1899 he was Recalled to Army Service under the Special Army Order of the 7th October 1899.
However, having been medically examined at the Depot of the Bedfordshire Regiment on the 14th December 1899 he was re-transferred to the Army Reserve having been found unfit for service in South Africa.
Re-joining The Police – Transferred.
It is assumed that Ernest immediately resumed his Police duties, and the 1899 and 1900 Electoral Rolls show he had been transferred as he was listed as living in the Old Police Station at Hitchin located in Silver Street. Originally a small Bridewell or prison it was converted to be the Police Station until it closed in 1885 after which time it was used as a Police Section House or accommodation.
Transferred Again And A Major Error Of Judgement.
The following newspaper articles reveal that Ernest was transferred again from Hitchin to E Division at Offley. He then made a major error of judgement.
Published in the Herts Advertiser on Saturday 12th May 1900 under the headline Charge Against Policemen Case From Hitchin: At Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, before Mr. T.A. Dashwood (in the chair), Mr. F.A. Delme Radclifft, Lord Glamis, Commander Fellowes, R.N., Mr. Wm. Ransom, and Mr. B. A. Charlesworth, PC Wm. Noble, of Ley Green, and PC Ernest Edgar Waller, of Offley, were charged with stealing two fowls, valued at 6s., the property of Mr. W. Wise, the landlord of the Green Man Inn, Offley, on May 2nd. Waller was also charged with neglect of duty on the same day.
Mr. George Passingham, solicitor, Hitchin, prosecuted, and Mr. Lathom, solicitor, Luton, defended Waller. Noble defended himself with considerable skill. Charles Ernest Wise, son of the landlord said the two defendants were in the house during the evening. Soon after he had got bed about eleven o’clock, he heard noise and saw two men in the yard, one with a lantern. His father and brother and he went out into the yard, and one man ran away across the meadow. They found there was another in the cart shed. Mr. Samuel Lucas, of Hitchin, coming by at the time, turned the light of his bicycle lamp on the shed, and a man rushed out in a butting position. He knocked witness down but was caught by Mr. Lucas. On being taken into the house, it was found that he was PC Noble. He went to Waller’s house to fetch him and saw Mrs. Waller. Afterwards, Waller came up in uniform, and said he had come from Mr. Miller’s farm. His boots were quite clean. The fowl house was not broken open; fowls had been roosting in the cart shed.
Similar evidence was given by George Wise, another son of the complainant.
The prosecutor said he kept about 100 fowls. On being aroused by his son, he went into the yard. He saw Noble run out of the shed. His son Charles struck at him with the butt end of an unloaded gun he was carrying, but he could not say whether he hit him or not. Afterwards he found two dead fowls in the cart shed. They were warm, and their necks had been broken.
Mr, Samuel Lucas, jun., spoke to collaring Noble. The roads were very dusty that night, but he noticed that Waller’s boots were very dean.
Mr. Daniel Hall said he identified Noble when sent for at that defendant’s request. He had heard no shouting until the heard the complainant’s wife and daughter shouting from the window just before he was called.
Mrs. Hall said she saw someone come from the gate near the policeman’s home and walk towards the Green Man. It was Waller.
Mr. Arthur Davis, of Stopsley Holes Farm, said he rode past the Green Man at a quarter past eleven, and rode at a walk towards Mr. Miller’s he did not meet anybody on the way.
PS O’Connor spoke to arresting the defendants, On the fence at the back of Waller’s house there was some barbed wire.
PS Wright said on examining Waller’s uniform he found that one pair of trousers had been ripped up.
The landlord of the Holly Bush beer house, King’s Walden, spoke of losing a fowl some days ago, and reporting the matter to Noble.
Supt. Reynolds said Waller made no report of the fowl stealing at Offley until it was mentioned to him. He had been in the force nearly three years; Noble had been in for 13 years. Evidence for the prosecution was also given by Mr. E.W. Andrews, surveyor, Hitchin; Monk, a County Council roadman: Miss Wise, the prosecutor’s daughter; Mr. E.J. Wilmott, of the Past Office, Offley and PC Threader.
Noble denied touching the fowls and said he went to the shed because he heard shouting. He had his coat off because it hurt him under his arm. Waller reserved his defence. The defendants were sent for trial at the Quarter Sessions on June 18th. An application for bail was opposed, as so many complaints had been received of property being missed in the neighbourhood lately, and the application was refused. The second charge against Waller was withdrawn.
The Result Of The Trial.
Published in the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow on Friday 22nd June 1900 under the headline The Midsummer Quarter Sessions for the Hertford Division of the County of Hertford. Constables Sent To Prison: William Noble, (33,) and Ernest Edgar Waller, (27,) both late members of the Hertfordshire Police Force, were charged with stealing two fowls, the property of Walter William Wise, at Offley, on 2nd of May last.
Mr. Grubbe appeared for the prosecution. Mr. Earle appeared to defend Waller and Noble defended himself.
The case which was reportedly recently when before the Hitchin Bench, had caused a great deal of interest and attention from the position of the defendants, one of whom Noble was for some time stationed at Ashwell, and was considered an efficient officer. There were fifteen witnesses called, and of these fourteen were examined.
The facts of the case as alleged by the prosecution were these: On Wednesday, May 2nd, Noble and Waller were in the Green Man public house, at Offley, (which is kept by the prosecutor) for a considerable time. While there they had a conversation with the prosecutor’s son as to an old gun hanging up in the club room, they telling him it was practically useless. At a quarter past nine they left the house. A little before eleven prosecutor and his family went to bed. Soon afterwards his two sons, who slept in a room with a view of the yard heard a noise, and on looking out they saw two men, one with a bull’s eye lantern going towards an open cart shed where some hens were roosting. The sons roused their father, and all three went into the yard, the elder of the two sons, Charles Ernest Wise, taking a gun with him. The noise made in removing the bolts of the back door was apparently heard by the men in the yard, for as soon as the door was opened one of the two men ran down the yard, climbed over the fence into a meadow and got off. The lad who carried the gun called out, “Stand or I’ll fire,” the weapon however not being loaded, but the fugitive took no notice. The women of the household were much alarmed and their cries for help attracted the attention of Mr. Samuel Lucas jnr., who was cycling from Luton to Hitchin. He thereupon made his way into the yard, bringing his bicycle lamp with him. Just at that moment one of the prosecutor’s sons saw a man in a stooping position in the cart shed and gave the alarm. Mr. Lucas turned the light of is lamp on the shed, and the man, who was in his shirt sleeves, rushed out. He was collared and taken into the house. There he at once said that he was Police Constable Noble, and that he had been looking after the prosecutor’s property. Police Constable Waller was sent for. It was alleged that he came in a very leisurely way from the direction of his house when told of the disturbance. Though not due to go on duty until 2 o’clock in the morning, he was in uniform and he said he had been to visit the farm of a Mr. Miller, half a mile off. It was noticed that his boots were clean, though the roads were dusty. When at the Green Man in the evening both Constables were in plain clothes. Two recently killed fowls were found in the cart shed.
Noble, in a statement before the magistrates said, “On Wednesday, May 2nd, I went to Offley. I got there between four and five. I went for the purpose of getting my advanced pay. I saw Waller and he told me he had been to Tea Green on that day with PC Threader’s pay, but as Threader was not at home, he brought it back again and he expected him every minute. I waited about till between ten and eleven. Then as Threader did not come, I started to go home. That was when I heard the shouting. I was wearing the coat then, the coat I am wearing now. I had complained to Waller and his wife of the coat being tight under the arms and that was why I had my coat off when I went to look round the shed. I am quite certain I did not touch the fowls and I should not have been there if I had not heard the noise.
The Jury found both prisoners guilty and they were sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour.
Ernest’s Army Service Record was endorsed on the 18th June 1900, “Hertford, tried by civil power for larceny and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for 9 months.” He also forfeited one Good Conduct pay award.
On the 25th February 1901 it was noted that he had left prison and had returned to duty.
Life After The Police.
During the 1901 census Ernest, who was recorded as being a Private in the Bedford Regiment, and his wife Sarah were listed as lodging at 13, Winchester Road, Colchester. Their son Ernest was staying with Sarah’s parents at 1, Priory Street, Ware.
On the 30th April 1902 whilst at Colchester, having served 11 years 28 days entirely at Home, Ernest was discharged from the Bedfordshire Regiment having been found medically unfit for further service. He gave his intended address as Lea Road, Rye Park, Hoddesdon. His conduct and character whilst with the Colours was recorded as very good and a special qualification for employment in civil life was shown as labourer.
During the 1911 census Ernest, who was employed as a quarry labourer in a gravel pit was listed as living with his family at 87, Star Street, Ware. The Electoral Roll of 1912 records them at the same address, however, the 1914 Electoral Roll lists Ernest as living at 10, High Oak Road, Ware.
Army Service During The Great War.
Ernest’s Army Service Record for the period of the Great War has not survived but from other sources it is known that, at the age of 41, Ernest Edgar Waller re-enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment as Private 4/7273. It is noteworthy that on this occasion he used his full name.
On the 11th November 1914 he landed with the 1st Battalion in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. He later transferred as Private 414763 to the Labour Corps and served with the 885th Area Employment Company.
Nothing further is known about his service except he survived the War and was awarded the 1914 Star and the Victory and British War medals.
Sadly, Ernest Edgar Waller died at 10, High Oak Road, Ware on the 22nd February 1919 presumably before his final discharge from the Army. The Register of Soldiers effects records that he left all of his effects to his wife Sarah E. Waller.
Ernest Edgar Wallace aged 45 years, of 10. High Oak Road, Ware, was buried on the 25th February 1919 at Ware New Cemetery in a War Grave Plot 171, Row 1, Grave 1. The family did not request an inscription for his headstone.
Ernest E. Waller, Private Bedfordshire Regiment, appears on the St. Marys Church WW1 Roll Of Honour Ware.