George’s ancestors were a family who had left Ireland in the mid-19th century, initially settling in the South East of England. His great grandfather Francis (1800-1876) worked for the coastguard service both in Sligo, Ireland and in Kent, including Fort Moncrief. The family gradually moved northwards and George’s father, William Charles Ellis (1873-1951), was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. By 1911 William had moved to Ambrose Street in Fulford and was working as a labourer for the Army Ordnance Stores. George had been married to Sarah for eight years and they had two sons: George Edward born on 14 January 1904 and James William born in 1907.
As an aside it is likely that the Ellis surname is derived from the Middle English personal name Elis – a form of Elias. Early forms of the surname can be found in Yorkshire and other counties in England, which suggests that the Ellis family in Ireland, had at some point originated in England. Further research into the Ellis family in Ireland has so far drawn a blank on who Francis’ parents were, although some potential siblings have been identified.
Returning though to my grandfather George, he is someone I never met, as he died during WWII. Gaining access to his military service papers and more recently a photograph of him, led me to decide to write up what I’ve been able to find out about him. Also, the recent release of the 1921 census was able to confirm that when it was taken, he was an apprentice working for the Evening Press Office, 9 Coney Street, York.
George married Glenda Florence Edith Digweed (1903-1973), my beloved grandmother, on 28 September 1929 in St Helen’s Church, Escrick. George was described as a printer living at Broughton at the time of their marriage. Glenda was a spinster from Escrick and her father Francis a Coachman Chauffeur. He worked for the family who owned Escrick Hall. The following photographs are of St Helen’s Church, Escrick and George and Glenda with family on their wedding day.
By the time their first child was born in 1932, the family had moved to Manchester and George was working for the Daily Express. In the 1939 register the family were living at 4 Fovant Crescent, Reddish with George described as a rotary machine manager. At that time, I wonder if George and Glenda thought it unlikely, he would be called up. The following photograph is undated but is of a “works do” at the Daily Express. George, with a cigarette in his hand, is on the left and Glenda on the right. The couple in the middle are Charlie and Prue who so far, I’ve been unable to identify.
Military Service in WWII – George enlisted in the Royal Artillery (RA) on 10 June 1942. He was described as being 5’10” tall with brown eyes and dark brown hair. It was noted that he had scars over his right and left eyes and one under his chin. George’s occupation was given as a rotary machine minder and that he was insured under the National Health Insurance Act. He was member 15730 of the Manchester branch of the Typographic no 301 society. George was allocated the service number 1149963 and posted to the 3rd Field Training Regiment as a Gunner.
George remained “at home” until 27 February 1943. His service record notes that he was posted to North Africa from 28 February 1943 to 10 September 1943; he was then home from 11 September 1943 until he died on 28 September 1943. This rather stark list of places and dates gives little indication of what had happened to George whilst he was serving in North Africa.
After a longish wait I finally received what survived of George’s WWII military records. His medical record provided more information about what had happened to him after he arrived in North Africa. An entry dated 14 July 1943 reported an injury he had sustained to his right hand on 3 June, which was described as being of a “moderately severe nature”, but was unlikely to interfere with his “future efficiency”. This wasn’t to be his last visit to the medics. On 30 July 1943 he was admitted to hospital with a swelling on his neck which required further investigation. The notes also record that he had been posted to the 5 Medium Regiment RA as part of their reinforcements in March 1943. This gave a helpful clue as to where he was in North Africa at the time of his injury in June and then when he sought further medical treatment in July. The war diaries for the regiment showed that he was at the Mahouanne camp near Setif in Algeria in June. By July they were at Aine Abessa and were ordered to mobilise from there on 26 July 1943. By 1 August they had arrived at Setif. It isn’t clear from George’s records whether or not he went with the regiment to Setif. His service record suggests that he left for home on 11 September.
George was admitted to the Royal Herbert military hospital in Woolwich on 24 September with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of lymphoma, cancer of part of the immune system called the lymph. He was placed on the Discharge Immediate list on 27 September and my grandmother was informed of his condition. She travelled to see him and, according to a family member, was with him when he died on 28 September. He was aged 39 and his death certificate recorded his cause of death as Lymphademia, a build-up of fluid in the bodies soft tissues. Although his address was given as 4 Fovant Crescent on his death certificate, it seems that my grandmother later gave her address as 40 Ambrose Street in Fulford which is where her parents in law were living in 1939.
George wasn’t forgotten by his fellow colleagues at the Daily Express; they posted an obituary for him in the Manchester Evening News on 30 September 1943. Part of it reads as follows:
“God saw the rugged pathway was getting hard to climb, so He closed his weary eyelids and whispered, “Peace be thine”. Night, and God bless Daddy.”
George was buried in Fulford Cemetery in the same grave as his brother Sydney (1912-1929). In 1944 his mother Sarah (1874-1944) was also interred in the same grave. It remained unmarked for some years, until the Commonwealth War Graves Commission provided a grave marker. I took the following photograph when I was searching for it nearly 10 years ago. I remember the day well as we were in the process of selling our house and I had to respond to a couple of calls about whether or not to accept an offer on it.
George is remembered in the WWII UK Roll of Honour and also on St Oswald’s Church, Fulford war memorial. He was awarded two medals: War Medal 1939/45 and the Africa Star with 1st Army Clasp. The following is a photograph of the panel on the WWII memorial.
After his death my grandmother and her children moved to Escrick, the village where I was born, where she worked as the caretaker at Escrick Primary School. We lived with her for a while when I was a young child and, after we moved, I often spent time with her on Saturday’s. I have very fond memories of my grandmother.
I am interested in knowing more about George and his colleagues at the Daily Express in Manchester. Do contact me if you have any further information which you are willing to share with me.
1939 Register. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed December 2021.
Births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed December 2021.
British Newspapers. https://findmypast.co.uk : accessed December 2021.
Census Records. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed December 2021.
Fulford. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/ERY/FulfordsAmbo : accessed December 2021. Military Records. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed December 2021.
Probate Records. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed December 2021.