Bdr. Edwin Ellis (1891 – 1916)
Of all the stories concerning the inhabitants Platt during the Great War, that of Daisy Ellis counts as one of the more tragic, having lost her husband, two brothers and a brother-in-law over the course of the entire conflict. She was one of 16 children born to Robert Ellis, a farm labourer from Goudhurst, and his wife Margaret Ann King. Sadly, seven of the Ellis children died young, with Daisy being the eldest daughter. Like her husband, Alfred ‘Len’ Parris, Daisy’s brothers James and Edwin both served as regulars in the pre-war British Army, with Edwin being the youngest, but the first to enlist in Maidstone during 1907, aged just 16.
Edwin Ellis was born during January 1891 at 1 Johnson’s Cottage in the quiet Kent village of East Peckham. Ten years later the Ellis family were resident at Gravelley Ways Cottages in Yalding and on Old Road in Wateringbury in 1911. By then Edwin had served several years as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery, and was garrisoned with the 125th Battery at Louisberg Barracks in Bordon, Hampshire (his brother James was based at the same barracks, but serving with the 126th Battery.) The 125th Battery was one of four consecutively numbered that collectively formed part of the 29th Brigade RFA.
Towards the end of 1911 Edwin was sent to India where he joined the 11th Brigade RFA. At that time, the 11th formed part of the Mhow (5th Indian) Division, and were based in Jabalpur when war broke out in August 1914. Orders were received to mobilize at the end of August and the brigade left by train for Bombay on 7 October. Consisting of the 83rd/84th and 85th Batteries, the 11th sailed from Bombay for Europe in a convoy with the Lahore (3rd Indian) Division on 16 October.
During the journey, Edwin would have sailed past Aden, up the Suez Canal and briefly anchored at Port Said in Egypt. The convoy then headed north across the Mediterranean and docked in Marseilles on 7 November. Four days later the brigade boarded a northbound troop train, eventually arriving at the village of Gorre near Béthune on the 25th. From this position, all batteries were initially tasked with targeting enemy sapheads, which were small disguised listening posts situated in advance of the enemy front lines in No Man’s Land.
During December, the 11th provided artillery support to the Indian Corps at the Battle of Givenchy, however at some point Edwin was sent sick back to the UK and admitted to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich, so may not have been involved in this battle. He was eventually discharged from Woolwich and sent to recuperate at the Netley Hospital in Southampton. According to the family, both Edwin and his older brother James were in the hospital at the same time.
61231 A/Bdr. Edwin Ellis returned to France in May 1915, perhaps in time for the attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th, and Festubert later in the month. In September he might have been part of the battle at Loos, where he would have witnessed the British gas attack being blown back onto their own lines. On 5 December 1915 Edwin was admitted to No.2 General Hospital in Le Havre but discharged back to duty in the next day.
At some point Edwin was transferred to ‘A’ Battery of the 124th Brigade RFA, which was armed with four 18-pounder guns, and by the end of June 1916 found himself based at Bienvellers, about 12 miles to the south west of Arras. On the 29th, the day of Edwin’s death, ‘A’ Battery supported a raid on the German lines by the Leicester Regiment, which the brigade War Diary describes as a success. This was a diversionary attack designed to draw attention away from the first major offensives on the Somme, which were to take place a few miles to the south two days later.
Unfortunately, Edwin was killed by a shell during this short skirmish and he is buried, along with several others of the brigade who died that day, in the Hannescamps New Military Cemetery, which was quite close to the front line at Bienvillers. His brother James, who was in the same battery, and may have witnessed his death, was certainly was present at his burial. Edwin was awarded the 1914 Star, British War & Victory Medals and is commemorated on the Platt War memorial as Edward Ellis.
Less than a year later Edwin’s brother James also lost his life.