Gerald Edgar Ellis was only 16 when he volunteered for the army in the First World War. It seems he lied about his age because records show he was born in Preston in late 1898. His birth was registered in Uppingham between October and November that year. By the time he died he had probably just turned 19. Gerald was one of seven sons and one daughter of William and Sarah Ellis who lived at 86 Cross Lane in Preston. By the time he was 12 the family was living in Rearsby in Leicestershire. Gerald enlisted in Leicester on 26 August 1915. Military records state he was 19 years and 340 days which means he claimed to have born on 20 September 1895. He also stated his place of birth was Ridlington. Gerald served with the Leicestershire Regiment, joining the 8th Battalion in France on 10 March 1916. He probably would have fought in the Battle of the Somme and was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1917. In August he had ten days home leave, returning to his Battalion on 20 August 1917. The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was underway and Gerald was killed a few weeks later during heavy fighting in Polygon Wood, near Ypres. The battalion war diary states how the Germans mounted a strong counter-attack, threatening to turn the Leicestershires' flank: "Heavy Lewis gun and rifle fire was opened on the enemy, who suffered casualties and were unable to make any progress down the slope to the front line... Between 7am and 10.30am the enemy made repeated attempts to advance against the open flank of the Battalion, but was driven back on each occasion by rifle and Lewis gun fire." The Germans then opened an artillery barrage and the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Utterson was hit in the arm by machine gun fire. "At 3.10 pm a determined effort was made by the enemy 10 or 12 strong to move down the slope from Joist Farm towards Battalion HQ but the attempt was stopped by rifle fire from the Battalion HQ concrete emplacement, the enemy retiring and leaving several dead behind them. No further attempt to advance was made by the enemy and the remainder of the afternoon passed quietly." The battalion was relieved the next day. During its stint in the front line it had suffered 186 casualties, dead, wounded and missing. Gerald was one of these. If we assume 20 September was his date of birth as he claimed, then he would have died just two weeks after his nineteenth birthday. Gerald has no known grave but he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, panel 50. He is also remembered on the war memorial inside St Michael and All Angels' Church, Rearsby and on the Roll of Honour in St Denys Church, Goadby Marwood, near Melton Mowbray.
Picture courtesy WW1Tigers.com which has hundreds of fascinating pictures of soldiers from the Leicestershire Regiment.
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