Monday, 29 September 2008

Stondon Massey: Remembering ... Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis was the elder brother of Harry who came through the war. Revd Reeve visited him on 23rd December 1918. He wrote: “I have today seen Pte. Robert Ellis, the eldest son of our village servant of the same name. He was formerly page-boy at Stondon Place, then a carpenter in the employ of Mr J T Gann. He went to France in a live Regiment in 1915, but being slightly wounded and suffering from trench fever was sent to the base. On his recovery he was employed in the aerodrome sheds and being a clever tradesman he rapidly acquired the necessary mechanical knowledge. He liked the work, and describes graphically the minute details which had to be dealt with in refitting injured “planes” in the repairing sheds: each case having of course to be sent out “perfect to the last nut”. Sometimes from 10 to 20 aeroplanes would have to be repaired in a day, and sent out for further service. Ellis was up at the fighting line when he was badly “gassed”. The Germans had been shelling the station for some hours, but suddenly the shells were changed for gas bearers, and as none of the workers were ready with their anti-gas helmets many were instantly suffocated. He himself remembers nothing till he found himself in hospital at Boulogne. His heart and lungs had been badly affected, and he can only walk a short distance, and cannot sleep except when propped up in a sitting posture.

“Ellis speaks of the variety and deadly character of the poisonous gasses. Almost every day changes were made to the chemicals provided as the antiseptics in the gas-helmets. The baneful influence of the gas extended to 12 or 14 miles and could be detected on the brighter parts of rifle or bayonet or regimental buttons. Within a closer radius the poisonous effect was visible upon the vegetable crops, which would turn yellow, and upon rats and mice which could be found in fields and hedgerows”.

Robert James Ellis died of his injuries, aged 45, and was buried in Stondon Churchyard, on 15th February 1919. His brother, Harry, returned from France, following the funeral.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

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