The first time I came across ERNEST was in an article that appeared in The Star (Sheffield) 16 April 2007 under the title

First World War honours at auction after just 18 months

FOUR medals awarded to a tragic Sheffield-born war hero who was one of Britain's first RAF pilots are up for sale again just 18 months after they were sold for GBP1,900.

Now the medals of Second Lieutenant Ernest Brownhill could fetch even more when they are auctioned at one of Britain's most prestigious auction houses, Spink in London, on Thursday. Experts predict that, this time, they could sell for up to GBP2,400.

Second Lieutenant Brownhill, who was born in Sheffield in June 1893, joined the RAF just weeks after it was formed towards the end of the First World War. He qualified for his "wings" in June 1918, around the time of his 25th birthday.

But just six weeks later he was dead, after his De Havilland plane was shot down on his way back from a raid.

A Spink spokesman said: "On August 16, 1918 Brownhill was part of a morning raid on the railway of Darmstadt. The original target had been Koln, but low cloud made the leader choose the alternative target of Mannheim instead.

"As conditions improved they pressed on a little further and hit Darmstadt. On their way home, near Mannheim, they were attacked by 20 fighters who shot four planes and wounded other crew." Brownhill and his observer, Second Lieutenant Madge, were killed, shot in the head and chest. Brownhill's body is buried at Niederzwehren cemetery in Germany, 400 miles from his beloved Sheffield.

Second Lieutenant Brownhill, was one of the first RAF pilots to be killed and one of the last Sheffield men to be killed in the First World War, which ended three months after his death.

Before he became a pilot Second Lieutenant Brownhill, was a stretcher-bearer and had been twice decorated for gallantry, receiving the Military Medal and Bar which are now up for sale at Spink.

His first Military Medal was awarded in 1916 "for gallant conduct on September 5, 1916, in going out several times from a sap in Thiepval Wood to collect casualties from No Man's Land who had been lying out for 36 hours". He received his second Military Medal - the Bar - later the same year "for gallantry on the evening of November 19, 1916, in attending to wounded men under heavy shell fire".

Brownhill had married his wife, Annie, at St Barnabas' Church in Highfield just eight months before he was killed.

Annie later remarried and moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire, where she and second husband, George, had five children. She was 80 when she died in the 1970s and had kept and treasured the medals of first husband all her life.

They were then inherited by grandson, John Epton, who sold them at an auction in London in September 2005, for GBP £1,900"

These are the details from the CWGC web site for both Ernest and his observer Thomas Madge. Judging from the grave references it seems as though they are buried alongside one another

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force
Unit Text: 55th Sqdn.
Age: 25
Date of Death: 16/08/1918
Awards: M M and Bar
Additional information: Son of Charles and Mary Ellen Brownhill, of Sheffield; husband of Annie Lucy Epton (formerly Brownhill), of 14, Mayfield Grove, Long Eaton, Nottingham.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. A. 1.
Cemetery: NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY - The cemetery is located 10 kilometres south of Kassel and 2 kilometres from the main road from Kassel to Marburg.

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force
Unit Text: 55th Sqdn.
Age: 19
Date of Death: 16/08/1918
Additional information:
Son of Fanny Julia Waymouth (formerly Madge), of 24, The Crescent, Barnes, London, and the late Percy Frank Madge.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. A. 2.

The medals that were awarded to ERNEST were

" The Great War, Thiepval 1916, M.M., and Bar  - Group of Four to De Havilland Pilot Second Lieutenant E.A. Brownhill, Royal Air Force

When they were re-auctioned at Spink on 19th April 2007, they fetched GBP £2,100, £200 more than when they were first auctioned in September 2005.

On Saturday 31st May the Sheffield Star published two photos of Ernest in it's Retro section

The first shows Ernest as a scout taken pre 1914

and the second was taken on his wedding day when he married Annie Tanner. This was taken in 1917

In October 2018 I received this additional information from a researcher about Ernest

(Ernest) was a warranted leader with the 1st Sheffield (Croft Hall) Scout Troop.

You may also be interested in the previous auction and gives a little more detail. 

Lot 1289

Date of Auction: 23rd September 2005

Sold for £1,900 - Estimate: £1,500 - £2,000

A fine Great War Somme 1916 operations M.M. and Bar group of four awarded to 2nd Lieutenant E. A. Brownhill, Royal Air Force, late Royal Army Medical Corps and Royal Flying Corps: having been twice decorated for his gallant deeds as a stretcher bearer, he was commissioned into the R.F.C. as a pilot and killed in action on a raid to Germany in August 1918

Military Medal, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar (903 Sjt. E. A. Brownhill, 1/3 W. Rid. F.A. R.A.M.C. - T.F.); 1914-15 Star (903 Sjt., R.A.M.C.); British War and Victory Medals (2/Lieut., R.A.F.), together with embroidered / bullion R.A.F. officer’s cap badge, by J. R. Gaunt & Son, surname officially corrected on the third, extremely fine (5) £1500-2000
M.M. London Gazette 9 December 1916. The following information was taken from Regimental Routine Orders dated 25 October 1916:

‘For gallant conduct on 5 September 1916 in going out several times from a sap in Thiepval Wood to collect casualties from No Man’s Land who had been lying out for 36 hours. The Divisional Commander warmly congratulates the recipient and the unit to which he belongs.’

Bar to M.M. London Gazette 19 February 1917. The following information was taken from Regimental Routine Orders dated 9 December 1916:

‘For gallantry on the evening of 19 November 1916 in attending to wounded men under heavy shell fire. The Divisional Commander warmly congratulates Sergeant Brownhill and the 1/3rd (W.R.) Field Ambulance.’

Ernest Albert Brownhill, a native of Sheffield, Yorkshire, was born in June 1893, and joined the R.A.M.C. (Territorial Force) in May 1910. A Lance-Corporal in the 1/3rd (West Riding) Field Ambulance on the outbreak of hostilites, he went out to France in April 1915, where he was advanced to Sergeant in October of the same year, and was twice decorated for his bravery as a stretcher bearer on the Somme. 

Described by his C.O. as ‘exceptionally brilliant’, with a ‘very good power of command’, and ‘at his best when in charge of a party of bearers, working under fire’, Brownhill was a natural candidate for a commission.

In late 1917, therefore, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and qualified for his “Wings” in June 1918. Initially posted to No. 52 Squadron, and he was shortly afterwards transferred to No. 55 Squadron out in France, a component of 41st Wing, Independent Force. Tragically, however, when his squadron was briefed to attack a target inside Germany on 16 August 1918, his D.H. 4 was one of four to be shot down by a superior enemy force that intercepted No. 55’s pilots over Mannheim. His observer, 2nd Lieutenant W. T. Madge, was also killed. Both men were buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery in Germany. Of this costly raid Trevor Henshaw states in his The Sky Their Battlefield:

‘These very heavy casualties for 55 Squadron occurred on a morning raid which bombed the railway at Darmstadt. The original target had been Koln, but low cloud made the leader choose the alternative target of Mannheim instead and, as conditions improved, they pressed on a little further and hit Darmstadt. Throughout August, enemy opposition on these raids was increasing daily, and on their way home, near Mannheim, they were attacked by twenty fighters who shot four D.H. 4s down and wounded other crew.’

Brownhill, who was 25 years of age, left a widow, Annie Lucy (nee Tanner), whom he had married at St. Barnabas Church, Ecclesall, Sheffield on 23 December 1917.

Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including Great War period “carbons” of the citations for both of the recipient’s M.Ms; certified copy of his marriage certificate, dated 15 September 1918; Buckingham Palace (Privy Purse Office) letter of condolence, dated 20 September 1920, with related envelope; and three portrait photographs, one of him as a pre-war scout, another of him in uniform with his bride and the last of him relaxing in a deck chair on an airfield.

If anyone could supply any more information on ERNEST or THOMAS, please contact me   


1. No 55 Squadron Formed at Castle Bromwich on 27 April 1916, it was originally intended as a training squadron, but in January 1917, it became the first unit to be equipped with the DH4 day bomber. These were taken to France in March and it immediately began bombing attacks and reconnaissance missions against airfields, lines of communications and other targets behind the enemy lines. In June 1918, the squadron joined the Independent Force and carried out similar operations even further behind the lines, becoming part of one of the earliest strategic bombing forces. Following the Armistice, the squadron carried mail until January 1919 when it returned to Renfrew as a cadre. Moving again in December 1919, this time to Shotwick, it disbanded on 22 January 1920.

The Military Medal is gazetted when awarded but no citation is given. The Gazette states

"His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the under mentioned Mon-Commissioned Officers and Men.."

2. The Military Medal was (until 1993) a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Army and other services, and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land.
The medal was established on 25 March 1916. It was the other ranks' equivalent to the Military Cross, which was awarded to commissioned officers and Warrant Officers (although WOs could also be awarded the MM), although it took precedence below that decoration as well as the Distinguished Conduct Medal, also awarded to non-commissioned members of the Army. Recipients of the Military Medal are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "MM". In 1993, the Military Medal was discontinued, and since then the Military Cross has been awarded to personnel of all ranks.

3. In October 2009, I located the family at 36 Keetons Hill in the Highfield area of Sheffield (GRO Ref RG13/4354 Page 54)

Chas.H. BROWNHILL Head M Male 24 Sheffield, York, England File Forger

Mary G. BROWNHILL Wife M Female 22 Sheffield, York, England

Fred BROWNHILL Son Male 15 Sheffield, York, England Builders Labourer

Lily BROWNHILL Daughter 10 Sheffield, York, England

Albert BROWNHILL Son 7 Sheffield, York, England

Morris BROWNHILL Son 5 Sheffield, York, England

Elsie BROWNHILL Daughter 2 Sheffield, York, England

and based on the above information, I found Ernest's parents in the 1881 Census that was taken 20 years earlier

Source Information:
Dwelling 2 H 5 Ct Edmond Street Census Place Ecclesall Bierlow, York, England
Family History Library Film 1342119 Public Records Office Reference RG11 Piece / Folio 4633 / 22 Page Number 36

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability
Chas.H. BROWNHILL Head M Male 24 Sheffield, York, England File Forger
Mary G. BROWNHILL Wife M Female 22 Sheffield, York, England
Elizabeth. BROWNHILL Daur Female 2 Sheffield, York, England
Emma J. BROWNHILL Sister U Female 14 Sheffield, York, England

It seems as though the family must have moved to the Keetons Hill address soon after the census for the City Road Cemetery burial records show that Charles and Mary lost a son at the end of 1883 and the address given is Keetons Hill. It is a possibility the Ernest's second name was given to him by his parents in memory of his brother ALBERT

Brownhill, Albert (child, age 3wk).     Died at 36 Keetons Hill; Buried on December 24, 1883 in Consecrated ground;
     Grave Number 11916, Section X of City Road Cemetery, Sheffield.

Brownhill, May (Child, age 3 wk).
     Died at 36 Keetons Hill; Buried on August 17, 1900 in Consecrated ground;
     Grave Number 17674, Section CC of City Road Cemetery, Sheffield.

5. From the FREE BMD site


Births June 1896 BROWNHILL Maurice Ecclesall Bierlow. 9c 411
Surname First name(s) Mother/Spouse/Age District Vol Page
Marriages Jun 1920 - Brownhill Maurice Wright Ecclesall Bierlow 9c 1044

ERNEST's MARRIAGE Marriages December 1917 - Brownhill Ernest Annie Tanner Ecclesall Bierlow. 9c 678


Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page
Marriages December 1921
Brownhill Annie L Epton Ecclesall B. 9c 865
Epton George E Brownhill Ecclesall B. 9c 865


Births June 1923 Epton Royston E Tanner Shardlow 7b 935
Births June 1925 Epton David G Tanner Shardlow 7b 960
Births Mar 1934 Epton James M J Tanner Derby 7b 854
Births Jun 1936 Epton Joyce G Tanner Derby 7b 900
Epton Patricia A Tanner Derby 7b 900
NOTE Joyce and Patrica were twins

6. From the 1911 UK Census

Name Albert Ernest Brownhill
Relationship to Head of Household Son
Condition Single
Gender Male
Age 17 Estimated Year of Birth 1894
Occupation Silversmith
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Place of Birth Ecclesall Yorkshire Nationality British
Enumerator Information
Address 10 Crowther Place Sheffield Parish Ecclesall Town Sheffield
Type of Building Private House Number of Rooms 5 Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN27827 RG78PN1592 RD509 SD6 ED16 SN133
Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Ecclesall Bierlow Registration Sub District Sharrow Enumeration District 16     


The Star (Sheffield) 16 April 2007

The Star (Sheffield) 31 May 2014

Spink Auctioneers

DNW Auctions

Sheffield Scout Archives

CWGC Website


This page was last updated on 12/10/18 16:27

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