A century after one of the most infamous battles of the Great War an Ellesmere Port village church successfully fundraised to restore a memorial to one of the 325,000 Allied casualties.
Private George Edward Ellis – who died on August 15, 1917, aged 23 during the series of battles known as Passchendaele – is remembered in the churchyard at St James Church in Ince.
Private Ellis was born in Ince in 1894 to Edward and Sarah Ann Ellis and worked as a labourer.
He almost certainly enlisted voluntarily in 1915 to serve initially with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry with whom he underwent basic military training. In 1916 he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and was posted to France in June that year with No 168 Company in the 56th (London) Division.
The following April the unit took part in the Arras offensive and in August 1917 was to take part in the series of battles now known as Passchendaele.
On August 15 the company was warned for a move forward into front-line positions for a forthcoming battle.
Churchwarden Simon Eardley explained: “From the unit war diary we understand it was during this move that they came under heavy shell fire and George Ellis was severely wounded. George was removed to No 55 Field Ambulance and died from shrapnel wounds to his shoulder and side.
“The exact site of his grave is unknown and he is commemorated on a gravestone stating ‘believed to be buried in this cemetery.’
“Within the grounds of his parish church at Ince, on the right hand side of the footpath leading to the main entrance, is a small memorial presumably erected by his family to commemorate his service and death.
“Over the years this memorial had become severely weathered and a number of the lead letters had disappeared.
“With the centenary of the death of Private Ellis approaching, our Parish of Thornton-le-Moors with Ince and Elton felt it would like to undertake a sensitive restoration of the memorial in preparation for a short service of remembrance on the first Sunday (August 20) after his death.”
Although the £500 funding for the work had been agreed the church offered the opportunity to members of the local community to contribute to the restoration project.
The service saw the rededication of the memorial led by the vicar, the Revd Dr Ruth Ackroyd with Mr Eardley offering a reading of the life, military service and death of Private Ellis with Mr Andy Ankers, a member of the congregation, reading Siegfreid Sassoon’s poem ‘Memorial Tablet’ was composed in 1917.
Another member of the congregation, former serviceman Geoff Rushton, played the Last Post and Reveille while the church’s lay reader Jen Pilling laid a poppy wreath at the memorial.
The service also included prayers to commemorate all those who fell at Passchendaele as well as a commitment from those present to support the wartime generations and all those in other conflicts since.
The congregation was made up of members of the church and the community as well as representatives of the Western Front Association, Merseyside Branch.
Prior to the service the association had visited the military cemetery where Private Ellis is commemorated placing a cross on the official Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial stone.