Mr Ernest Frederick Prior
06 October 1922 - 03 July 2016
Resident of The Royal Star & Garter Homes, 2014-2016
Ernie Prior came to live in the Surbiton Home in 2014, having served in the Army’s Leeds Tank Regiment in the Second World War. During his time with The Royal Star & Garter Homes, Ernie and his family kindly allowed us to share his remarkable story, helping to raise funds to care for his fellow veterans.
Ernie was born in Hackney in 1922. He was conscripted into the Army in 1940 and, after basic training in Farnborough, Ernie served in North Africa, Algeria and Tunisia. Aged just 21, Ernie had never been overseas before and it was a remarkable experience for an East London boy: “It was amazing. It was an experience.”
After being hospitalised with malaria, Ernie recuperated and later worked as a driver, delivering vital ammunitions and petrol. It was a dangerous job, however Ernie enjoyed the sense of freedom it gave him.
Ernie’s brigade was posted to Italy, where they served with Canadians, Poles and other nationalities along the Gustav line in Italy. Ernie was subsequently awarded an honour by the Canadian Infantry and so had a maple leaf to wear on his ribbons.
Whilst serving in Italy, Ernie witnessed Monte Cassino being bombed and after the war, he returned to visit the cemetery where the Allies had been laid to rest. He was very moved when the first grave he came across was a soldier from his regiment: “We went into the cemetery and the very first body was one of our soldiers. It broke me up. It really gets you. You’re still there.”
When the War ended, Ernie was sent to a demob camp near Naples, where he started entertaining. He continued on the stage in his civilian life, meeting legends such as Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan on the circuit.
When Ernie came to the Surbiton Home in 2014, he quickly built a reputation as a great singer and raconteur, as well as a true gentleman.
Ernie sadly passed away, aged 93, on 3rd July 2016. We are very proud to have been able to provide the specialist care that Ernie needed. He was a much-loved resident and will be missed by everyone at the Charity. Our deepest sympathies are with his family.