Pte 15/1945 West Yorkshire Regiment, Prince of Wales Own. 15th Battalion Leeds Pals

John was born in Ossett in 1893 to James Ellis and Martha Westwood, who had married two years earlier. James’s trade was house furniture and cabinet maker. They lived in Dale St. Ossett. (Source: 1901 Census)

Interestingly, the 1901 Census does not list James as head of the household. Instead, Martha is living with her parents – Henry and Sarah Westwood- and her son, unmarried sisters and grandfather. Martha is still listed as married at this point, suggesting that James has not died, but instead may have deserted her. James still cannot be found on the 1911 Census and Henry is now a widower.

John is noted as being a collier labourer, above ground. Having been to the grammar school, one can perhaps assume that the idea behind his appointment as a labourer was to have him learn the trade from the ground upwards. His uncle Harvey was the colliery manager. (Source: 1911 Census)

In 1914, John was 21, but he did not enlist right away and his army number suggests that it could have been as late as 1915, enlisting at Ripon. He might have ventured to Egypt with the battalion, but as his medal card does not show the 1915 Star, only the British War Medal and Victory Medal, this is not certain. His service record does not survive, but he was probably in France for the Battle of the Somme and survived it – unlike so many others from the 15th Battalion.

By May of 1917 however, the Pals battalions were back up to strength and ready to be used in another attack. This took place on the 3rd May, the object being Windmill Trench at Oppy Wood near the French village of Gavrelle.

In the end, 4 officers were killed, 3 were wounded and 8 reported missing. Amongst the other ranks, 15 were killed, 122 wounded and 262 were missing. One of these was John Ellis. (Source: Medal Index Card)

His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Source: CWGC). The Ossett observer reported his death as follows:

‘Three Ossett soldiers missing – Lance-Corporal Harold Brown (20), son of Mr. and Mrs. R.M. Brown of Dale-Street, Ossett; Private I. Burnett Westerman (21), son of Mr. L. Westerman, of Ryecroft-street, Ossett and Private John Ellis, grandson of Mr. Henry Westwood, Barrowcliffe House, Ossett of the West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds ‘Pals’), have officially been reported missing from their regiment.’

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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