Regiment: 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
Service No: 8245
Date and place of birth: 4th qtr 1889 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 23 October 1916
The two brothers John Charles and William Ernest Ellis were both killed during the war. It was reported in the West Sussex Gazette that a third brother (Frederick) died, aged twelve, only a few months prior to John’s death, ‘by falling out of a tree’.
John Charles Ellis, baptised at Midhurst Parish Church on 13 October 1889, was the first son of John and Emily Frances Ellis who had married in Midhurst in 1886. Emily’s parents, Thomas and Jane Prodgers came from Brighton and at the time of the 1891 census he was a fishmonger in Wool Lane, Midhurst. John Ellis was born in 1861 and had been a locomotive engine cleaner before becoming a post office letter carrier by 1891 when he was living in Wool Lane with his in-laws. With him were his wife, born in 1866, and their first three children: Emily (3) John (1) and Florence (4 months).
By 1901 John Ellis (39) had taken over as fishmonger in Wool Lane on his own account but was also working as a rural postman. His wife Emily was now 34 and there were three more children: Thomas (8), William (5) and Katherine (3).
At the time of the 1911 census, John Ellis (50) was a patient at Merchant Taylors Convalescent Home at Bognor, Sussex. His son John (21) was listed as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in barracks. Emily Ellis (44) was running the fishmonger’s in Wool Lane on her own account and living there with her were Emily (23), Thomas (17), William (15), Katherine (13) Frederick (8) and Bernard (4).
In 1911 John Charles Ellis was in the British Army serving as a Private in the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in Mauritius and South Africa.
During World War 1 he enlisted at Chichester and, according to the Medal Rolls, he first served in the Balkans from 25 April 1915.
On 4 August 1914, when war was declared, the 1st Battalion was stationed in Colchester as part of the 11th Brigade of the 4th Division. From Colchester, the Battalion moved to Harrow before mobilisation and embarkation to France. By the end of the month, they landed in Le Havre and immediately moved to the Front. They faced continuous action during the following years, being involved in the Battle of Le Cateau, the Battles of the Marne, Aisne and Messines during 1914. They also participated in the Christmas Truce of 1914, followed by the second Battle of Ypres (1915) and the Battle of Albert (1916). The Battle of Le Transloy (1 to 18 October) was the final offensive of the British 4th Army during the 1916 (1st) Battle of the Somme. Worsening weather and dreadful battle conditions meant that the initial objectives were not accomplished until day three.
The follow-up action had to be delayed by a further four days because of atrocious weather. Attack after renewed attack took place over the following days but fierce defence by the Germans meant slow progress for the British. Repeated attacks achieved small gains at the expense of huge losses. In all, almost 11,000 British casualties had been sustained in a total of just forty three days of fighting on the Somme.
John Ellis was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals. In June 1916, according to a report in the West Sussex Gazette, he received a postcard saying:
“The General Officer commanding the 29th Division congratulates No. 8245 Private J. Ellis, 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment, on the gallant action performed by him”
He sent this card home to his parents with a covering letter, saying “I will tell you what I did for it when I get home” and “We are all well and happy out here”. Writing to his sister 2 days later Private Ellis told her that 3 of his friends were dead but he was still “kicking”.
By the time of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the Hampshires had already taken part in nine battles in that year and were based at Haspres near Solesmes. The Hampshire Regiment received 82 Battle Honours and 3 Victoria Crosses, losing a total of 7,580 men during the course of the War.
Death and commemoration
John Ellis was killed in action on 23 October 1916. He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial, Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church, Graffham War Memorial and on a headstone in Midhurst Cemetery. His name appears on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 7C
Subsequent family history
His parents, John and Emily Ellis moved from Midhurst to Perrott’s Cottage, Graffham, Sussex
His brother, William Ernest Ellis, died of wounds on 11 September 1914 whilst serving with the Royal Sussex Regiment.
His father, John Ellis, died in 1931, aged 70 and his mother, Emily, died in 1942, aged 77, both in the Midhurst district.
Around the start of the twentieth century there were two other Ellis families living in Midhurst.
Living at 3 Bennetts Terrace in 1901 were Thomas E Ellis (1847-1903) born in Goudhurst, Kent and his wife Caroline (1857-1907) born in Horstead Keynes, Sussex. He was a corn merchant’s foreman and there were six children: Robert W (14), a house boy, Emma (11), Charles R (8), Ada M (6), Benjamin A V (4) and Arthur (1). With both parents dead by 1911, the census records show the two youngest boys as inmates at the Workhouse, Easebourne, Sussex; Robert William Ellis (25) was an Able Seaman serving with the Royal Navy in China; Charles Ellis (20) was a kitchen porter boarding with the Church Army, 1 Upper Street, James Street, Brighton, Sussex. The names of Charles Ellis and Robert Ellis appear on Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.
Living at Petersfield Road in 1901 were Thomas Ellis (1860-1903) born in Chichester, Sussex and his wife Alice (1860-1943) born in Easebourne. He was a monumental stone mason and there were two sons: George Ellis (12) and Charles (9). In 1911 Alice (52) was widowed and living at the same address with George Edwin Ellis (22), a carpenter, and Charles (19), a grocer’s shop assistant. The names of George Ellis and Charles Ellis appear on Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.