Wearside family which was devastated by two deaths in war - in just two months

South Hetton man Maurice  Ellis died in battle at Bethune in northern France. Pictured is Bethune Cemetery.
South Hetton man Maurice Ellis died in battle at Bethune in northern France. Pictured is Bethune Cemetery.
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A South Hetton man died on the battlefield – just two months after his older brother suffered the same fate.

Private Maurice Ellis was serving with the 5th/6th Battalion of the Royal Scots under an alias of Albert Brown. He was just one week short of his 21st birthday when he met his end.

Kevin Dance.

Kevin Dance.

His battalion had been posted to the Bethune area of North Western France and spent months fighting the enemy in the Cuinchy Sector.

But on September 21, 1916, the action started early and by 7.15am, Maurice was dead.

His commanding officer revealed more when he wrote in his diary that a party of men had been ordered to report on a sap – a small trench which was dug so that soldiers could move forward to a new position further forward.

The party was also ordered to bomb an enemy position but the British men then reported that five bombs were thrown from the enemy sap position and they all landed in the British trench.

Hugh Ellis was 7 years older than Maurice and was killed in action 2 months before Maurice on July 10, 1916 whilst serving with the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment

Kevin Dance

The casualty report for the day told of one person wounded.

All the detail has been sent to the Sunderland Echo by Kevin Dance, who is a former South Hetton man himself.

Kevin now lives outside the North East but remains fascinated by his place of birth.

He said: “I’m currently researching the names of the 46 men from South Hetton who lost their lives during the First World War.”

Maurice’s story is the latest he has shared with us and this South Hetton man’s life is one of real interest.

Maurice had already served his country once, albeit briefly, when he enlisted with the Royal Navy in January 1915, said Kevin.

“After two months naval training at HMS Vivid 2 (a naval establishment at Devonport) Maurice is posted to HMS Tiger in March 1915 as a Stoker 2nd class,” Kevin added.

“On July 6, 1915, and whilst HMS Tiger is docked at her home port of South Queensferry (Edinburgh), Maurice absconds from the Navy.

“His whereabouts for the next 2 weeks are unknown until on July 22, 1915, Maurice enlists with the 6th Battalion Royal Scots in Edinburgh using the false name Albert Brown.”

It had been an interesting start to military service for a man who was born to a big family.

His parents were Edward and Mary who were originally from Holywell in Flintshire, North Wales. In 1901, they family was living in Silverdale Street, South Hetton. But tragedy had already struck as Mary had died two years earlier.

Dad Edward was left to bring up his children John, Sarah, Edward, Robert, Margaret, Hugh, Roger, Thomas and Maurice.

Ten years later, the family was still in Silverdale Street and the father Edward had a new wife Elizabeth.

But by now, Maurice was 14 and working as a coal miner screener above ground.

It was only four years later that he enlisted with the Royal Navy.

But Navy life was shortlived and, just six months after joining a life at sea, he was a soldier.

He told the Army his birthplace was Newcastle. Next of kin is quoted as his sister Jane Alison living in Dalmeny Street, Leith, Edinburgh.

Kevin said: “A check of the records shows that no one of that name was living at that address at that time.”

As it was, Maurice had become an Army man and stuck at it until he died in battle - winning the 1914-1915 Star, British War, and Victory medals.

Kevin added: “Maurice had two older brothers who also served in the army during the First World War. Hugh Ellis was seven years older than Maurice and was killed in action two months before Maurice on July 10, 1916, whilst serving with the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Hugh had enlisted in December 1915 and was married to Mary. He is remembered with Honour at the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

“Robert Ellis was 11 years older than Maurice and also served in France. He returned home safely after the war.”

For their father Edward, who had lost two sons, he was awarded £12, 5 shillings and 2 pence War Gratuity and later £4 War Gratuity.

Kevin would love to hear from more people who can help him with information on the South Hetton men who died in the First World War.

If you can, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk