Ernest Edward Ellis was born in Writtle and brought up in Chelmsford where he worked for Crompton’s. A pre-war Territorial he joined the regular army in Apri 1916 having been initially rejected. He was posted to Middle East, wounded in April 1917 and killed in action in Palestine in December 1917. His home was in Crompton Street.
Ernest was born at Writtle on 19th June 1898, the son of James Ellis (born 1870 in Roxwell) and Kate Ellis (nee Skingsley born 1872 in Writtle). Ernest was christened at Writtle on 14th August 1898. At the time his father was a labourer living at Writtle.
His parents had married on 14th July 1894 at All Saints’ Church in Writtle. At the time his father was aged 23, a labourer of Writtle, and the son of Charles Ellis, a labourer. His mother was aged 22, of Writtle, and the daughter of Samuel Skingsley, a labourer.
Ernest was one of five children born by 1911. His elder brother was Arthur James Ellis (born 1895 in Writtle, died in 1945). His younger siblings, all Chelmsford-born, were Daisy Ellis (born in 1902), Lilly Ellis (born in 1904) and Walter Cyril Ellis (born in 1906, died in 1967). Later he gained two brothers, Anthony Ellis (born 1911, died in 2003) and Terence Ellis (born 1912, died in 1989).
The 1901 census found the family living at 2 Seymour Street, Chelmsford. Ernest’s father was an electrical machinist.
A decade later the 1911 census recorded Ernest, his parents and four siblings at 10 Crompton Terrace, Chelmsford (today’s 51 Crompton Street), on what was known as the Waterhouse Estate. Ernest was a newsboy; his father was a metal driller at an electrical engineer’s (probably Crompton and Company); while elder brother Arthur was a metal turner, also probably at Crompton’s.
Ernest served as a Territorial in the Chelmsford-based 5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment and was subsequently rejected as unfit for the military due to ‘poor physique’. However, he persisted, passed a medical at Chelmsford on 21st April 1916 and two days later he attested to join the regular army for five years in the colours and seven in reserve, stating a preference to join the Bedfordshire Regiment.
At the time he was only 16, though he claimed to be 18, and was an engineer’s labourer. He was five feet four and a quarter inches tall, weighed 98 pounds with a chest of 32 and a half inches. He had a pale complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair and was a Roman Catholic.
On 1st May 1915 Ernest was posted as Private 10870 in the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. In December 1915 he was at Landguard.
On 5th January 1916 he was transferred to the 3/4th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment as Private 5744, before being posted to his final battalion, the 1/4th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment on 16th March 1916. He was given a new service number - 201376. That day he embarked from Devonport, Devon on the ship H. T. Scotian as part of the Eastern Expeditionary Force. The ship docked in Alexandria, Egypt 13 days later. Ernest’s battalion arrived in Shalufa on 11th April 1917. He was wounded in action on 19th April 1917 with gunshot wounds to his right foot. After recovering in Romani he rejoined his unit on 20th June 1917. During September 1917 he fell ill with sandfly fever, recovered and rejoined his unit on 12th October 1917.
Two months later Ernest was killed in action on 11th December 1917 in Palestine. At the time he was serving in B Company 1/4th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment. He was aged 19 and had served for two years and 233 days, of which one year and 271 days had been overseas. His parents were informed off his death on 31st December 1917.
On 4th January 1918 the Essex Weekly News reported:
“Mrs. Ellis, of 10, Crompton-ter., Chelmsford, has received information that her son Ernie, Norfolk regt., was killed in action on Dec. 11. He was 19 years old and had served with the Expeditionary Force for nearly two years, and fought and was wounded at the battle of Gaza on April 19. Having enlisted at the age of 16 years he had served his country for nearly three years, An elder brother serving in the R.F.C. has also seen active service in France, and his father is in the R.D.C. Deceased was formerly employed at the Arc Works.”
ELLIS, ERNEST EDWARD,
Private, 1/4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment (formerly of the Bedfordshire Regiment)
Ernest was buried in the Jehudiyeh District, but later exhumed and today lies at Ramleh War Cemetery, twelve and a half miles south-east of Jaffa in modern-day Israel (grave: D. 22).
On 8th April 1918 the War Office wrote to Infantry Records at Warley and directed that any of Ernest’s property in their possession should be despatched to his father, Private James Ellis, at 10 Crompton Terrace.
Ernest is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and on the War Memorial at Church of Our Lady Immaculate in New London Road, Chelmsford (pictured).
He is not commemorated on the war memorial at St. John’s Church in Moulsham Street.
He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed Ernest’s absent father, and his mother at 11 Crompton Street, Chelmsford (today’s number 51). However, his mother died in 1918, aged 46 during the influenza pandemic.
His father remarried, on 26th September 1921, to a widower, Mary Jane Downes and the couple had a child.
Ernest’s father died in 1939, aged 68.