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58634: The Story of Harry Ellison

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posted on 2024-02-23, 23:00 authored by Great War Archive Project Team

Harry Ellison

Harry Ellison first attested as a soldier in December 1915 and appears to have been placed on the Reserve for about 3 months before he was first posted, attached to the Manchesters 29 March 1916.

He was originally given the Regimental number 24699 in what looks as though it was the York & Lancaster Regiment (the original regiment is crossed through). Given that he gave his address as Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield, and he made his attestation at Sheffield, the York and Lancasters would have been his local infantry Regiment. The approving officer for his attestation gave his place of approval as Pontefract, which was the depot for the York & Lancasters.

Harry was a 39 year old joiner when he attested. He seems to have been a fairly small chap “ 5 ft 6 ½ inches tall with a 38 inch chest. On enlistment it was noted that he had a scar under the right clavicle (collar bone). He gave his mother (who lived in Greasbrough), as his next-of-kin and there is no entry for a wife or children.

Things got serious in April 1916 when he was posted to the West Yorkshire Regiment on 10 April. He was posted to 22nd (Labour) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment and on 18 April was appointed as an unpaid Lance Corporal, which was made a paid appointment on 29 April 1916. It looks as though the fact that he was an older man and a skilled man led to him being posted to a labour battalion and given some responsibility as a junior NCO.

Labour battalions were generally made up of men who were not considered physically fit for fighting and were engaged in a wide range of labouring tasks largely connected with transport (building roads and railways, operating docks etc.) but also the construction and maintenance of defensive works, trench lines, huts and billets etc. behind the immediate front lines. They were often working in range of the line of fire from artillery, machine gunners and snipers.

Harry shipped out to France on 10 May 1916 so he was there for the Somme offensive. Without finding the Regimental War Diary, we cannot know what he was doing and where. But on 12 September 1916 he suffered gun shot wounds in the field. By 16 September he was in the Military Hospital at Etaples and they returned him to England on the Hospital Ship St Denis.

He is recorded as at the West Yorkshire Regimental depot from 21 September 1916 until he was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service on 1 March 1917. He was regarded as having 100% disability for pension purposes. He was awarded a pension, reviewable after 2 years but sadly he died before then on 4 November 1918.

His case was reviewed by a Medical Board on 27 September 1918. The Board Members were Robert Hiller, W Gray and H H Jamieson. The Board found him 100% disabled, requiring constant attendance by another person and said that he cannot work at all. They found that his disability was permanent and it will get worse. They were asked to give full details of the gun shot wound(s) and did so as follows (so far as I am able to read it, the comments in italics may be helpful in understanding the severity of his injuries): There is a soundly healed ai**** scar just above and internal to the back of the *** condyle of ******. (not sure where this injury is)

There is a discharging **** (? abscess) immediately below the external condyle of the right arm. (he had a wound to his upper right arm which was not healing)

There is a perfectly healed circular scar about the size of a shilling in the episternum just to the right of the linea alba with thickening of the connecting cartilage on that side. (sounds like a bullet wound in the back, that missed the spine)

There is a depressed stellate scar, adherent to bone, just above the occipital protruberance quite healed and closed by bone. (the occipital area of the skull is the lower back area of the skull. If you run your hand around the back of your head you will feel a slight lumpy bit which is the occipital protruberance. This is the area of the skull where the joins onto the spine.

There is about complete right hemiplesia (paralysis) with aphasia (loss of ability to speak and/or understand speech) and almost complete aphonia (loss of voice). The fingers of the right hand are much contracted and there is wasting of the hand. He can only walk with support and drags his leg very badly.

It sounds as though he was hit by at least 4 bullets in the back one of which was in the back of the head and caused a significant brain injury. He was left very severely disabled and it is probably surprising that the poor chap survived as long as he did.

For information, the 22nd (Labour) Battalion of the West Yorkshire (Prince of Wales Own) Regiment was formed at Millington (just east of York) in April 1916. It appears that the Battalion War Diary is available at the National Archives, Kew, under reference WO 95/571. The Battalion was part of the Fifth Army, which was a reserve to the Fourth Army which initiated the Somme offensive. It would seem that they soon became involved with the offensive. In early September there was still heavy fighting around Delville Wood (Devil's Wood, the horridest place on the Somme) and Guillemont Farm. 12 September was the day the barrage started prior to the attack on 15 September on the Albert/Bapaume Road.

Submitted by Harry's sister Ada's very proud Great Grandaughter Linda Rudnicki (transcription of Harry's papers by a very special person called Mich)



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Ellison, Harry


December 1915 - November 1918

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Official document


1, 2

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Richard Marshall | Linda Rudnicki


The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor


The Great War Archive, University of Oxford

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