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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 122469
1/3 North Midland Field Ambulance - Royal Army Medical Corps
Who Was Killed in Action on Thursday, 17th October 1918
Age 38

Row B Grave 1
Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, Aisne, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension

Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, Aisne, France1

Arthur Edwin Ellis was born in Old Lenton, Nottingham in 18802, the elder of two children, both sons, of Arthur Ellis (b. c1857, Lenton) and Lucy Jane, his wife (b. c1857, Old Radford, Notts née Thompson)3. By 1901 Arthur Edwin - then known as Edwin - had followed his father into the lace trade and was working as a lace maker in Draycott where the family was living at 23 Fowler Street4. By 1909, Arthur Edwin had developed a relationship with Violet Ann Skerritt (née Lee) who was married to William Ernest Skerritt, another Draycott lace maker5, and a child - Florence Lucy - was born to the couple in 19106. By 1911, no doubt to escape what would have been a local scandal in Draycott, the family had moved to Beeston and were living as man and wife with their daughter at 2 Salisbury Street. Arthur Edwin had found work at a local lace factory7.

Having now established a stable family life, it is perhaps not surprising that he was not amongst those who enlisted so enthusiastically in the early months of the war. By the middle of 1915 however, the number of volunteers had dropped off and the relentless demand for more and more men at the front was not being met. In an attempt to boost numbers without invoking the unpopular option of conscription, the Government adopted a scheme devised by Lord Derby that became known as the 'Derby Scheme'. It encouraged men to voluntarily attest, for service at a later date and, in the mean time, to be placed in an army reserve and released to everyday life until needed. Those in the reserve were categorised by age and marital status to be called on in a structured way. Crucially, the scheme promised that married men would not be called on until the pool of single men was exhausted. Arthur Edwin attested on 10 December 1915, just before the scheme expired6. As his Army Service Record has survived we are able to follow the subsequent timetable that eventually took him to service on the Western Front.

Having attested, he returned to his job in Beeston and family, living by now at 36 Myrtle Grove Beeston. During the registration process he had declared himself married which, in itself would have extended the call-up period. In October 1916 he was recalled for a medical examination and was further graded for service and, perhaps as the result, the option to join the Royal Army Medical Corps rather that the normally more likely local regiment, The Sherwood Foresters, became a possibility. In the event he was called to join the Sherwoods at Derby on the 18 July 1917 but transferred two days later, to the Royal Army Medical Corps and onward to its training school at Blackpool.

On 23 February 1918, he arrived in France and, after a brief period in a holding depot at Havre, he was posted to 1/3 North Midland Field Ambulance, then at Bethune, and began the almost never-ending task of helping the sick and wounded as well as more general duties such as supervising sanitary conditions in the field. Field Ambulances were not vehicles but front line medical units. operating at Divisional level, that could be moved as needed. They were designed to treat 150 casualties but were often required to deal with much greater numbers. In a battle situation, as part of the evacuation chain they provided stretcher bearers to evacuate the wounded from aid posts in the front line and operated as dressing stations so that the wounded could be passed to the Casualty Clearing Stations9. This was front line work and it is likely that Private Ellis was killed while acting as a stretcher bearer or similarly exposed to battle conditions.

Private Ellis was buried in Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension. Fresnoy-le-Grand is a small town in the Department of the Aisne, 14 kilometres north-east of St Quentin. It was evacuated by the enemy on the 9th October 1918, and occupied by the 46th (North Midland) and 6th Divisions. The Extension was made and used by the 46th Division in October 1918. There are now over 60, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The Extension covers an area of 240 square metres10.

He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11. His financial effects of 11 14s 2d were paid to Violet Skerritt as his Sole Legatee on 27 March 1919 and she also received his War Gratuity of 4 10s on 26 November 191912.

Following his death, Violet reverted to her correct surname of Skerritt and continued to live at 36 Myrtle Grove up to at least 1958. She died in the Ilkeston area in 1971, aged 84.13.

1The photograph of Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Radford Registration District (of which Old Lenton was part) in Q1/1880 (Ref 7b 235).
3They were married at St Peter's Church, Radford on 25 December 1878.
4Draycott, Derbyshire: 1901 Census, Piece 3212 Folio 24. His brother, Bertie (b. c1887, Radford) was also present.
5William Ernest Skerritt and Violet Lee had married in Shardlow Registration District on Q4/1905 (Ref 7b 1030). In 1911, he was living with his parents in Draycott.
6She was registered as Florence Lucy Ellis Sherritt in Derby Registration District in Q2/1910 (Ref 7b 626).
7Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20430 RD429 SD3 ED5 Schedule 231. They are recorded as Arthur E, Annie and Flora Ellis.
8These, and all other details of his enlistment and deployment are derived from his Army Service Record. He declared that he had married Florence Lee at Osmaston Road Register Office, Derby in 1908 without providing the usual proof.
9This description of the work of Field Ambulances and the casualty evacuation chain is derived from the on the Long, Long Trail website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/the-evacuation-chain-for-wounded-and-sick-soldiers/.
10This description of the Fresnoy-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from Arthur Edwin's Medal Roll entry and his Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
12Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
13Details of Violet in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources, including the 1939 Registration.

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