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Ernest Gardiner


Major Ernest Gardiner  2nd March 1915

It is just possible that the Gardiner family was connected to the Venetian explorer John Cabot, for a John Gardiner sailed with him to America in the late 15th century. Another John Gardiner was Warden of the Merchant Venturers in 1626. In the 19th century the family established a business - Gardiner & Sons - which manufactured trench mortars, bombs and aeroplane parts during the Great War.

Ernest was born on 16th March 1880 in Bristol . He was the son of Thomas Chapple Gardiner and Sarah Bishop Gardiner, of "Waratah", Beaufort Road , Clifton , and husband of Kathleen Eleanor. He joined Clifton Rugby Club in 1900-01.


Above Clifton XV 1907-08. Back Row (L-R): C.W. Baker, G.F. Matthews, E. Gardiner, R. Fedden, H.G.W. Prideaux, P.T. Rowe, F.J. Hannam. Middle Row: A.J. Gardner, F.T. Boucher, E.F. Eberle, E.J.G. Higham, E. Briggs, C.M. Welsby. On Ground: A.L. Weir, R. Witchell, A. Gardiner, L.W.D. Wathen

His father owned several ironmongery businesses in Bristol called Gardiner & Sons Ltd. In 1972 the company merged with Haskins Furniture to become Gardiner Haskins Homecentre, one of the largest stores in Bristol . Ernest was an assistant in his father’s firm.


The Gardiner family around the turn of the century. (L-R) Back Row: Ernest, Enid, Hubert, Edward Lucas. Seated: Agnes, Thomas Chapple, Sarah, Florence , Ethel, Alfred



In all, six family members represented the club.  His brother Alfred tossed a coin, with Ernest, to decide who would stay home and help run the family business or go to war; as happened so often at the time, a local woman, believing that he should have gone to war, sent Alfred a white feather. Alfred later joined Harlequins and died in 1959.

Ernest joined the South Midland Royal Engineers (SMRE), 1st Field Company.

Ernest was killed at St Eloi, near Ypres , during skirmishes between the first and second major battles in the area. He has no known grave.

An account of Ernest Gardiner ’s death was included in a letter home from Clifton RFC team-mate JH (Harry) Savory. It says You will have heard by now of our misfortunes during that scrap at the beginning of the week. (Richards and I were of course in for the first night as we finished up the last spell.) The following morning the men bought back the news of Gardiner’s death. I think it was from a bomb. We can still hardly realize it and it is much too sad for me to try to write about just now. We all feel rather mournful but of course have to keep ourselves and the men as cheerful as possible under the circumstances. Cyril Hosegood wrote his people the following day and by now I think they must have heard about it. Please on no account let this letter be the means of their getting the news. Then you will have heard too that Owen has left here. He got hit across the nose, thank God it is not serious.



Ernest Gardiner is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial along with fellow Clifton player A.E.J. Collins.

Ernest Gardiner is included in the World War 1 Memorial chapter of For College, Club & Country – A History of Clifton Rugby Football Club, printed by MX Publishing in 2009. ISBN 9781904312758



© Patrick Casey, 2010
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