Ernest Harold Canning was born on 10 August 1895, the fifth of the seven children of Frederick George Canning (1860-1921) and Janet Canning née Barnes (b.1854). His birth was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1895 in the St George Hanover Square registration district, Westminster and he was baptised on 13 October 1895 in St Mark's Church, North Audley Street, Mayfair, London, where the baptismal register shows his family were residing at 37 King Street Mews, Mayfair, (now called Culross Street). His father was a described as a coachman.
In the 1901 census he is shown as living at 36 King Street Mews, Mayfair, with his parents and five siblings: Frederick W. Canning (b.1884), Ethel Kate Canning (1885-1961), Sybil Canning (1887-1939), Rose Maud Canning (1892-1972) and John Canning (b.1899), together with three stablemen and a groom. His father was listed as a coachman/groom and his elder brother, Frederick, was shown as an electrician.
When his father completed his 1911 census return form, the family were living in the 38 roomed property called Dudley House at 36 Park Lane, Mayfair, the residence of Sir Joseph Robinson (1840-1929). He was described as an apprentice civil engineer living with his parents, two siblings: Rose Maud Canning and John Canning. His father described himself as a coachman, his daughter as a dressmaker and his youngest son as a schoolboy.
On 26 October 1915 he is shown in the manifest of the S.S. Highland Pride of the H & W Nelson Limited shipping line arriving in the Port of London having embarked at Montevideo, Uruguay, as a 2nd class passenger and giving his occupation as a clerk.
In November 1915 he enlisted as a Private in the 28th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists' Rifles), service number 4824 and entered France on 21 April 1916. On 1 January 1917 his service number was changed to 760765. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Gloucestershire Regiment on 13 April 1917 and later he transferred into the Royal Flying Corps that became the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.
Page 12963 of the Supplement to the London Gazette of 1 November 1918 shows that he was a 2nd Lieutenant holding the rank of Temporary Lieutenant and confirmed the award made earlier of the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The citation reads 'This officer has displayed marked courage and skill in bombing enemy transport, etc., at low altitudes. He took a conspicuous part in the attack on bridges over a certain river; subjected to heavy machine-gun fire he descended to 150 feet to exactly locate their position, and bombed them from a low altitude'.
He was attached No.102 Squadron when he was killed, aged 23 years, on 5 October 1918. He was an Observer when his aeroplane, which was being piloted by Lieutenant Leslie James Forrest (1898-1918), crashed on their return from a bombing raid on a railway station behind the German lines, into the front line of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion. His body was buried in Plot 3, Row A, Grave 8 in the Drummond Cemetery, Chem. des Vignes, 59554 Raillencourt-Sainte-Olle, France. Lieutenant Forrest was buried alongside in Grave 9.
Probate records show his address to have been 14 Hyde Park Terrace, Paddington and that when administration was granted to his father on 27 December 1918 his effects totalled £101. By 1 September 1919 his army effects totalling £121-11s-6d plus his £8-0s-0d war gratuity had been sent to his father. He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal 1914-1918 and the Victory Medal.
Shown as Canning. E. 2nd. Lieut. R.F.C. on the Quebec Chapel war memorial, he is however commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website and on the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World War website with the rank of Lieutenant.
Credit for this entry to: Andrew Behan.