b. 21/11/1890 Maidstone, Kent. d. 01/07/1979 Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 21/08/1918 Shahaban, Iraq.
Bernard George Ellis (1890-1979) was born on the 21st November 1890 in Surbiton, Surrey, the son of Henry Charles Ellis and May Bennett. They lived at Home Cottage in Roundwell, Bearsted. He had one brother, Charles Harold. His great-grandfather, Charles Ellis was the Mayor of Maidstone in 1860, and his grandfather Charles junior was also Mayor of Maidstone three times in 1864, 1872 and 1878. Bernard was educated at the Cathedral School, Salisbury where he was Head Chorister and “Bishop’s Boy” and Montpellier, Paignton, Devon. After school, he worked for the Kentish Bank in Maidstone.
At the outbreak of WWI, he was on the staff of the Union of London and Smith’s Bank, Maidstone. He joined up with the Public Schools Corps in September 1914 as a Private, trained with them and eventually headed to France in November 1915. He served in the trenches for six months opposite the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Private Ellis returned to England, trained at Oxford, and was given a commission, being gazetted to The Buffs Regiment. He went with his battalion to India and then to Mesopotamia. He had been a bomb instructor in the Brigade.
On 21st August 1918, Lt Ellis was with a party at Shahraban under instruction in the firing of rifle grenades. A volley was fired, but one grenade, owing to a defective cartridge, did not leave the rifle, but fell back into the barrel with the fuse burning. The firer dropped the rifle and grenade in the trench, but Ellis, who was separated from him by 4 other men in the narrow trench, at once forced his way past them and seized the rifle. Unable to remove the grenade, he dropped the rifle and placed his steel helmet over the grenade, which exploded at once, severely injuring him. His prompt actions saved the lives of the other men.
He was invalided back to India, where he served as Captain of the Guard to Lord Willingdon, stationed in the hills. Although he still carried 350 pieces of the exploded grenade, 77 of which were lodged in this right arm, he was still a keen sportsman.
After the end of the Great War he joined the firm of George Spencer Moulton Ltd. They were rubber manufacturers with offices in London and a factory in Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire. Initially he worked in London where he met Winifred Amy Wilding. They married in 1925 and lived at Richmond Hill for three years. He then transferred to Bradford-on-Avon where he ran the sports department. They lived in Bradford then moved to Bath. They had two children, Anne Janet and Roger Wilding.
During WWII, when Bernard served in the Home Guard and for which he received the Defence Medal, the family were bombed out of their house in Bath during the Blitz in 1942. They were very nearly killed but managed to escape to Bradford-on-Avon where they stayed with friends. At the end of the war, the family moved to Hove and then to Purley in Surrey with Bernard continuing to work with Spencer Moulton in London until he retired in c. 1953 but they remained in the town until his wife died in 1975.
In 1971 when the decision was made that living Albert Medal holders could exchange their medals for the George Cross if they so wished. Bernard attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace with his wife, and two children in 1972. He was also a regular attender of the VC and GC Association events. After the death of his wife, Bernard moved with his son Roger to the small village of Willian, near Letchworth Garden City. He died on 1st July 1979 in his 89th year and was buried in Willian Churchyard. The VC and GC Association sent a wreath and Admiral Godfrey Place VC wrote a personal letter to the family.
Bernard’s medal group including his GC, AM, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45 and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 were donated by his son Roger to the Buffs Regimental Museum in Canterbury, Kent. The museum is now closed and the collection was obtained by the National Army Museum, Chelsea. The medals are not currently on display.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ALL SAINTS CHURCH, WILLIAN, LETCHWORTH, HERTS.
Bernard Ellis' medals including his exchanged George Cross on display at the National Army Museum, Chelsea.
(Picture courtesy of their website).