Ernest was born in Modbury on 15th December 1879 to James and Isabella Wood of Modbury. Little is known of his childhood but he appears in a newspaper summary of the Petty Sessions Court for ‘riding a bike at Ridgeway at the rate of 15-17 miles an hour’ for which he was fined £1-7s -6d. He married Honor (nee Perkins) and lived at Moorshead Cottage, Plympton. Initially working as a farm labourer, he joined the Royal Navy in 1897 where he is recorded as being 5ft 4 ins tall. He served on HMS Albion as an Able Seaman before joining HMS Defence. During his career he was decorated with Mentioned in Despatches
HMS Defence was a Minotaur-class armoured cruiser built in the first decade of the 20th century, the last one built for the Royal Navy, and was sunk on 31st May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war. Escorting the main body of the Grand Fleet, Admiral Arbuthnot, commanding HMS Defence, attacked the German cruiser Wiesbaden that had been badly damaged in a clash ahead of the British battlecruisers.
One German battlecruiser and four dreadnoughts fired upon HMS Defence as she attempted to engage the disabled German light cruiser. She was struck by two 12in salvoes from SMS Friedrich der Grosse, Admiral Scheer’s flagship, that detonated her rear magazine. The fire from that explosion spread to the ship’s secondary magazines, which exploded in turn.
The ship exploded at 6:20 pm with the loss of all men on board; between 893 and 903 men were killed. Ernest, along with all his shipmates, was killed on 31st May 1916 aged 36. Fellow Modbury resident, Chief Petty Officer Charles Martin, was also a member of the crew.
|Born:||15th December 1879|
|Next of Kin:||Son of James and Isabella Wood of Modbury. Husband of Honor (nee Perkins)|
|Died On:||31st May 1916|
|Where Buried:||At Sea|
|Memorial:||Plymouth Naval Memorial|