The eldest of four children, Edward Ellis was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1889 to Thomas Ellis and Ellen, née Farr. In 1891 the family settled in Hebburn, County Durham where Thomas worked as an angle ironsmith, and then a boilersmith, possibly at the shipyard. Nothing is known about Edward’s early education but in 1908 he went to Bede College to train as a schoolmaster.
While at the college he was a member of the rowing club, taking part in the Durham Regatta as cox in the Mayor’s Plate and Lady Herschel races. In The Bede magazine (June 1909, p.22) it is reported, “Clough’s crew rowed splendidly but their chances were spoiled by cox (Ellis) taking them a bad course after Bath Bridge”. At Bede, Ellis spent two years attached to the D.L.I.: from 1875 onwards students at the College were expected to join its Volunteer Rifle Company. In 1908 this was re-organized into the Territorial Force of the 8th Battalion D.L.I., which had traditionally been made up of volunteers. Along with members of college staff, they undertook volunteer and territorial training, attended an annual camp and took part in drills during their two-year teacher training course. In The Bede (June 1910, p.12) he is listed under “Senior Cribs” i.e. leavers, having completed his teacher training.
It is known that in 1915 he was the Schoolmaster on the Training Ship “Wellesley” on the Tyne. This was a “reformative” school for boys without family or with criminal involvement, established in 1868. The ship itself had been destroyed by fire in March 1914 and the school transferred to the Tynemouth Palace, while keeping its original nautical name.
On 27 December 1915, in Auckland, County Durham, Ellis married Lily Gornall of Hunwick, daughter of Henry Gornall, a colliery mechanical engineer, and his wife Elizabeth. Edward and Lily’s daughter, Marjorie, was born on 5 March 1917. (After Edward’s death, Lily married Arthur Sanderson in 1922).
On 9 December 1915, a few weeks prior to his marriage, Edward had enlisted in the Army Reserve in North Shields. He was mobilized in April 1917 and posted to the 4th Reserve Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He was made Lance Corporal in August 1917, reverting to Private on embarkation in March 1918. He arrived in “F” Depot, B.E.F. on 31 March having been transferred to the 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. The Battalion was part of the 64th Brigade, 21st Division, which had been serving on the Western Front since November 1915. In April 1918, the 64th Brigade was involved in the Battle of the Lys, defending the Wytschaete – Messines – Kemmel Ridge. The 1st Battalion, “A” Company, to which Ellis had been posted, held the exposed and dangerous right front in the line north of Wytschaete. Very intensive attacks drove back the Allied forces, inflicting heavy casualties, with the German Army retaking much of previously lost ground.
While there is no indication as to where or when Edward Ellis was severely wounded, it is possible that it occurred during the above engagement. He was transferred to the Northumberland War Hospital in Gosforth, being admitted on 2 May 1918 with severe injuries to his face, including his right eye missing, with the socket swollen and septic. Over a period of four months spent in hospital, he seemed to begin to recover but suddenly died on the evening of 5 September 1918. Edward Ellis is buried in Hebburn Cemetery.