Ernest Wilson (Ernie) PINCHES DCM


PINCHES, Ernest Wilson

Service Number: 296
Enlisted: 12 April 1916, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Machine Gun Company
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, 16 April 1900
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Brisbane Boys' School (Petrie-terrace)
Occupation: Pupil Teacher
Died: Died of Wounds , Bullecourt, France, 5 May 1917, aged 17 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

12 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 296, Sydney, New South Wales
1 May 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 296, 14th Machine Gun Company, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
1 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 296, 14th Machine Gun Company, HMAT Benalla, Sydney
5 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 296, 5th Machine Gun Company, Bullecourt (Second)

Help us honour Ernest Wilson Pinches's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


Ernest  Wilson  Pinches was the  only son of  Thomas Pinches  and Julia Sarah Pinches (nee Wilson)  of "Frankville", Kennedy Terrace, Ithaca (East Brisbane - next to the Gabba Cricket Ground).

He  was a  15-year-old "pupil teacher" at Brisbane Boys' School on Petrie terrace, when he first enlisted in the AIF at Brisbane on 03 Jan 1916. When his boss,  Mr. George Vowles, of that school found out, he went to quite some  lengths to expose  Ernie's  true  age to the authorities, and ensure he would not be sent to war.

Ernie Pinches was  decribed by his Camp C.O. at the time as "a big chap who would easily pass for 19 & was awfully keen..." But not yet being 16 years old, Ernie was discharged from the AIF on 22 Feb 1916, just  six  weeks into his remarkable  adventure.

Despite the best intentions of Mr. George Vowles, Ernie, clearly did NOT see  teaching as his future. So three months later, with the blessing of his parents,  he journeyed to Sydney, New South Wales, and there he enlisted once again on 13 Apr 1916.  This time Ernie chose the  name "Eric Pinches" SERN: 297, stating he was 21 (although still 4 days shy of his 16th birthday).

One year later on 15 Apr 1917 (the day before Ernie's 17th birthday), at Noreuil, France, Ernie distinguished himself. During an attack on by the enemy on Noreuil, an enemy machine gun crew had taken up a position in a shell hole just 40 yards from the sunken road occupied by Australian Infantry. The enemy crew were inflicting casualties on the allied soldiers, and so seeing this, Ernie Pinches, armed with two Mills grenades, jumped out into the open and rushed at the enemy machine gun position, compelling the unwounded crew to surrender, and capturing the crew and their gun single handedly.

Perhaps Lieut. French (who had witnessed the gallant act) let young Ernie know on 25 Apr 1917, that he had just nominated him for a DCM for his gallantry at Noreuil. In any event it would be a posthumous award as by this date Ernie had only one more week left to live.

Pte. Ernest Wilson Pinches, DCM, died from the wounds he received in action at Bullecourt, France on 03 May 1917 (although officially declared as 05 May 1917).

One of Ernie's mates, 2530 Pte. Frederick Leslie Snowdon (/explore/people/357579) wrote a letter to Ernie's mother, Julia Sarah Pinches (nee Wilson) dated 20 Jun 1917, telling her how Ernie had died;

"Dear Mrs. Pinches, Just a few lines in deepest sympathy concerning Ernie's death. I think that you would like the facts. We charged at 4 a.m. on the morning of May 3rd, for a place called the Hindenburg line, when Ernie who was carrying the gun and the corporal were both hit badly in the thigh. I got Ern on my back and was carrying him out when I also got hit badly in the leg. We lay in a shell hole for 14 hours. Nobody could get near us as the Germans shot at everybody they saw. Ernie died from his wounds about 3 o'clock that day. I think that if I had not got shot getting him out there would have been a chance of saving Ernie's life. Yours truly, PTE. F. L. Snowdon 5th M.G. Coy."

Ernest Wilson Pinches, DCM, was 17 years and 17 days-of-age at the time of his death.


The sad news has been received from the Red Cross that Private E. Pinches (only son of Mr. and Mrs. Pinches, Kennedy-terrace, Ithaca) died of wounds at Bullecourt on May 3 last. The deceased Soldier, who was only 17 years of age, had previously been reported missing. This brave young Queenslander had a remarkable career. When very young he showed marked ability under the baton of Mr. R. B. Salisbury, and gained the credit of being a good little drummer. The late Captain Moran (area officer) admired his pluck and courage, and brought him under the notice of the former Governor, Sir William MacGregor, who presented him with a wristlet watch for two years' voluntary drumming with cadets, he being under age. Prior to enlisting, Private E. Pinches was a teacher at the Petrie-terrace school. Although so young he was most anxious to gain his parents' consent to his enlisting, but through the intervention of a well-meaning friend he was discharged from the Brisbane camp. Nothing daunted the gallant lad, with the knowledge of his parents, went to Sydney. Being of splendid physique, and a good athlete, he stood the test, and was accepted for a machine gun company. Within the month he sailed for England, and after solid training at Grantham and Belton Park left for France. He was eight months in action, and was through several engagements. In one of the last his bravery won him the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In writing home, love of parents and sister was the chief theme, and he asked that they should not worry about him, "for," he wrote, "I have never once paraded before the doctor, and feel as fit as a fiddle." Several letters have been received from his comrades referring in admiration to his splendid spirit, and with what great respect his memory is held by all his mates. Among his personal eflects is a ruby ring given to him by a German corporal. Corporal Ernest Goodwin, in conveying his sympathy to the deceased's mother, writes:-

"Above all your sorrow must arise a mother's great pride that her boy, and especially one so young, should prove his worth by winning one of the greatest honours on earth - D.C.M. - before giving his life in the noblest act of all. The only regret is that he never knew of the distinction he had won, as the award was not published until four days after his death in action. Perhaps you have heard of the deed that won him his decoration. I will give it to you just as Sergeant Bible,  (later  2nd  Lieut.  Richard Herbert Bible (/explore/people/318865))  who was with him at the time, told me. He says that young Pinches was the gamest kid that he ever saw in the line. He did not know what fear was. One day, during a heavy bombardment, he nicked away by himself, armed only with a tiny revolver (a souvenir), and some time later strolled back again with a whole German machine gun crew, gun, and all, that he had captured all on his own. No sooner had he handed them over than he was off again, accompanied by another fellow. Shortly afterwards he arrived back with 11 more prisoners, and he looked as cool and self-possessed as if it were an everyday occurrence, instead of one of the pluckiest things a man could do. How he did it is a mystery, but he earned a great name for it over here, and I am sure that if the military authorities only knew his age (it is 21 in the pay books) he would have the distinction of being the youngest D.C.M. in the present war." - from the Brisbane Courier 24 Nov 1917 (