Heddlu De Cymru: South Wales Police Commemorative Research Project

1 November 2018 | Bethany Reynard

Hundreds of policemen from the predecessor forces of Glamorgan, Swansea, Merthyr and Neath served in the armed forces during the First World War. South Wales Police established a commemorative project to research the lives of those who served and create a lasting record of their endeavors and the sacrifices they made.

The 2018 booklet gives details of those who died during 1918 and 1919. There are twenty in all. The project remembers those who were recognised for their bravery and devotion to duty in 1918 and also those whose awards were not made until the following year. Read on to discover the story of Ernest Rollings from excerpts of the booklet written by the First World War Project Group.

Ernest Rollings: “the policeman who ended the war”

On 28th July 1913, aged 19, Ernest joined the Glamorgan Constabulary and was serving at Caerau, near Maesteg at the outbreak of war. Ernest was released from the police so he could join the army and he enlisted on 11th November 1914.

Ernest was awarded his first military cross whilst serving with the Tank Corps in July 2017. He served with the C Battalion and took part in the Thirds Battle of Ypres which began in July 1917. He was awarded the Military Cross for this actions in August during the battle. The citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He commanded his tanks in difficult ground and under heavy shell fire with the greatest courage and perseverance, helping them out of many difficulties and keeping them in action by his splendid personal energy and fearlessness. After he completed his duties, he went back to assist a seriously wounded office and several men who were still under heavy shell fire.”

Later Ernest joined the 17th Battalion of the Tank Corps and was promoted to Lieutenant on 31st July 2018 and on 8th August led his section of armoured cards in raids in support of Australian forces on the first day of the Battle of Amiens. During a raid on the village of Framerville, near Amiens, Ernest entered a German Corps Headquarters and took possession of secret maps, plans and other documents which he later took back and handed to senior officers. Here is what happened described in Ernest’s own words:

“I entered the building revolver in hand, wondering what sort of greeting I would receive. To my relief there was no sign of life…On entering the room I saw lots of papers, maps and office equipment. I collected all I could in the way of documents and maps and handed them to men in the car outside who packed them in sandbags…Before leaving I did fix the Australian flag over the headquarters…48 hours later the flag was still flying.”

For his actions that day Ernest was awarded a second Military Cross, the citation for which appeared in the London Gazette on 2nd December 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry in command of a section of armoured cars during an attack. He took his section across the shelled area with skill and courage, and penetrated a village strongly held by the enemy, killing many of them and stampeding a quantity of transport. He send back reports of great value, and finally extricated and brought back his cars without a casualty.”

Ernest did not remain in France as he sustained serious wounds in action at Achiet-Le-Petit on 21st August 2018 and returned to England for treatment in Manchester before convalescing in Cardiff. After recovering from his injuries and in 1919 returned to the 17th Battalion in Ireland. Ernest had the honour of taking part in the Victory Parade in London to mark the end of the war which was held on 19th July 1919 when he led a column of tanks.

He was released from military service on 13th January 1920 and subsequently rejoined the Glamorgan constabulary serving at Ystalyfera and Gwaun-cae-Gurwen in the Swansea Valley.

You can access the booklet here to read on about Ernest’s life after the First World War and to discover the stories of the other men commemorated. The project has also produced a second booklet which is able to go in to further detail about Rolling’s life including much photography which can be found here.