Ernest and (Samuel) Mark Pepper

Meldreth Brothers in Arms in the Great War

By John Crawforth

Ernest and Samuel Mark Pepper were the youngest children of Samuel Pepper, born 15th September 1855, who became an agricultural labourer and fruit grower and his wife Fanny (nee Hinkins), born 19th November 1854. They married in 1874 and had twelve children in total: Walter, Arthur, Albert, Ada, Thomas, Susan, Daisy, Joseph and Sarah E, Edward, Ernest and Samuel (known as Mark). The second eldest child, Arthur Pepper, who went on to serve in the RAF during the First World War and afterwards became a poultry farmer in Royston, is the subject of a separate page on this website. The fourth youngest, Sarah, pictured here, became Sarah Butler and has written a detailed record of her memories of Meldreth. 

Photo:Sarah Butler (nee Pepper), elder sister to Ernest and Mark, outside the family home in Whitecroft Road.

Sarah Butler (nee Pepper), elder sister to Ernest and Mark, outside the family home in Whitecroft Road.

Gloria Willers

Ernest Pepper

In 1891 the family was living in Whitecroft Road, Meldreth. Ernest was born on 5th January 1895. After receiving his education at the County Cambridge School, Ernest went to work in the clerical department of Swift's American Meat Combine in London. This company was a leading US firm operating in the transatlantic Argentinian chilled beef trade. By the 1890s it had established a British subsidiary and moved into wholesale distribution in London, Liverpool and a number of provincial centres.

Photo:Private Ernest Pepper, Army Pays Corps

Private Ernest Pepper, Army Pays Corps

Royston Crow

Ernest enlisted at London in October 1914 as Private 2670 in the Army Pays Corps and was posted to Egypt in December 1915, arriving there in January 1916. Cairo was headquarters to the United Kingdom garrison in Egypt. After just a month in Cairo he became unwell and his parents received a telegram on the 8th February 1916, warning them that he was dangerously ill. Cairo, along with Alexandria, became the main hospital centre for Gallipoli in 1915 and later dealt with the wounded and sick from military operations in Palestine and Egypt. 

Photo:Private Ernest Pepper's grave, Cairo War Cemetery

Private Ernest Pepper's grave, Cairo War Cemetery

Ernest died from diphtheria the day before the telegram to his parents arrived, on Monday 7th February 1916, at Cairo Hospital. He lies in grave D. 300 of the Cairo War Cemetery, Misr Al Quadimah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt. The commemoration on his gravestone reads "Son of Samuel and Fanny Pepper of Meldreth, Cambs, England - Beloved by All."


(Samuel) Mark Pepper

Mark, as he was known, was born two years after his brother, Ernest, in 1897. On leaving school he went to work for his father who was by that time an established fruit grower in Meldreth.

Photo:Private Mark Pepper, East Yorkshire Regiment

Private Mark Pepper, East Yorkshire Regiment

Royston Crow

In June 1916 he enlisted as Private 28206 in the 12th battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment but fell in battle only a few months later. When the Battle of the Somme opened on 1st July 1916, his Division had attacked Serre but suffered dreadful losses.  In the last phase of the battle some four and a half months later, they were involved in a repeat attack, with similarly disastrous results. Although units to their south successfully stormed the German lines, Mark's Division was held up and was caught in fierce fighting, failing to get as far as the heavily fortified village. He was wounded on the 14th November 1916 and died from his wounds in the 3rd or 4th Casualty Clearing Station the following day. He was just 19 years old.

Mark Pepper is buried in Puchevilliers British Cemetery about 19 kilometres north-east of Amiens. Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, it contains 1,763 First World War burials.

Photo:Puchevilliers British Cemetery, near Amiens, France

Puchevilliers British Cemetery, near Amiens, France

Both brothers are commemorated on Meldreth War Memorial.

With acknowledgements to Gloria Willers, Bruce Huett and Steve Fuller.

This page was added by John Crawforth on 11/05/2015.
Comments about this page

Amazing story, these two were my great uncles and I thought I knew the WW1 family history from a book that my Aunt Iris wrote about her life and family, having been brought up in Meldreth. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, I often think of my great Uncle Mark, who apparently was a brilliant scholar and lovely boy, only to have his life ended so cruelly at the Somme at the tender age of 19. I, however, thought that Mark died within 24 hours of arriving in France, but it turns out that he had a distinguished but brief military career before being fatally wounded. I did know about Ernest Pepper also, and how he died in Egypt. My mother Christine Pepper was born in the shadow of WW1 in 1917 and married my father Allan Hulme. She always spoke so fondly of her Uncle Mark. I didn't know that Mark's grave was in Amiens. I will visit one day now I know. Thanks so much for this information, I came across the website purely by accident having been moved by the R4 series Tommies, something that only the BBC are capable of producing. 

By Martin Hulme
On 26/06/2016

I was very interested in your comments Martin, as Mark and Ernest Pepper were also my great uncles. My grandmother Sarah was one of their sisters who married Arthur Butler just before WW1. They had two children Sidney Arthur and my late father Wilfred Mark who was named after his uncle. Sarah lived most of her life in Meldreth and wrote a book of her memories which is also on our website. 

Since joining Meldreth Local History Group I have found out that Sarah was one of twelve children and I would be very interested to know which brother was your grandfather. I would also love to be able to purchase a copy of your Aunt Iris's book if this is possible. 

By Gloria Willers
On 29/06/2016

Mark and Ernest were my second cousins.

My father John William Pepper never knew his Pepper roots in Meldreth and Melbourn because his father emigrated to Australia and his mother eloped with a member of the Jackson family. Although his mother was still "Mrs Pepper" she used the name Jackson. It was only in 1967 that my father found out the truth, but was never able to make the connection to Melbourn and Meldreth.

By Ian Pepper
On 12/07/2016

Gloria Willers and Martin Hulme you are my 3rd cousins. You may never have known that, or indeed known about my branch of the Pepper family.

I would be interested in talking to you both to gleam more info on my Pepper roots.

By Ian Pepper
On 02/10/2016

Mark and Ernest Pepper were my great uncles. Susan Pepper was my grandmother.

By Monica Morris
On 10/11/2017

A relation of my late mother has fully documented the extended Pepper family tree beginning with John Pepper who married Elizabeth Freshwater on 17 June 1811 in Meldreth. Their son Joseph born 5 March 1815 married Anne Whitmore  in Melbourn on 10 March 1838. Their son Samuel (my great grandfather) born 1853 married Fanny Hinkins December 1874. Of their sons, my grandfather Edward was brother to Ernest and Mark Pepper who was the youngest of their children. It is said that my grandfather never really got over Mark's death at such a young age in the Great War. Unfortunately my cousin Martin Hulme who had made an earlier comment was recently killed in a mountaineering accident in Scotland. 

By David Pepper
On 29/11/2017

I was saddened to hear of Martin's accident. Please pass on our condolences to his family. Last year Martin and his sister Cath kindly sent me an extract from Iris's book about her memories of growing up in Meldreth which I very much enjoyed.

My grandmother Sarah Pepper, Mark and Ernest's sister, became the youngest family member after their deaths. It must have been devastating for Samuel and Fanny to lose their two youngest sons within months of each other.

By Gloria Willers
On 15/12/2017

My mother and father had a copy of Iris's book, "My Three Lives" that she wrote in Canada after she and my uncle George emigrated there in 1968. I am in the process of tracking down the book from the publisher in Canada, J C Colombo. They were both very interesting people. Iris was the eldest child of Edward and Annie Pepper. She was brought up at Brewery Farm and at the beginning of WW2 joined the WRAC and was sent to the Isle of Man to train as a radio interceptor (she had very good hearing). She worked throughout the war in Bletchley Park. After the war she married George who was a Trinity College Cambridge mathematics don. She was a Cambridge City Councillor, NSPCC area organiser, and served on the board of the New Addenbrookes Hospital amongst other things. During the war George was responsible for a new radar aerial design, still used today, and later wrote several definitive books on poltergeists and the paranormal which was his hobby.      

By David Pepper
On 19/12/2017

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.