He was born in London in 1895, the illegitimate child of a cook. His mother came from Nottingham, and it is possible she knew Mary Knifton, who had also been in service. Otherwise, how Eric ended up in Wymeswold was a mystery. He was taken in by Mary’s sister Deborah as a ‘nurse child’. Such arrangements for illegitimate children were common at the time, and it is likely that either the mother or the father would have sent what money they could to help pay for Eric’s keep. Deborah never married, and clearly regarded Eric as her adopted son. The family tradition is that he was a popular member of the Knifton family and their extended connections in the village.
He seems to have gone to Yorkshire to work on the railways; again, it is likely that another member of the Knifton family may have helped him get the job. Yet before his twentieth birthday, he had volunteered for the Yorks and Lancs Regiment. Eric served on the Western Front and was twice wounded, badly enough to be hospitalised in England each time. Eventually, on March 31st 1918, with the German Offensive raging on the Somme, he was transferred to the 15th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and sent back to France. His unit, in need of a rest after the fighting on the Somme, was sent to the Chemin Des Dames. However, this would be the target for the next phase of the German assault on 27th May. Unprepared, the British were driven back for miles. In the next two days, the Durhams lost 425 Other Ranks – half the battalion.
Somewhere, in the chaos, Eric Evans died, and his body was never identified. He is remembered on the Soissons Memorial to the missing. His adoptive mother Deborah never married.