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Leeds soldier who was last to die in Great War

NINETY years ago, at 11am on November 11, 1918, the First World War ended.

The end came just 90 minutes too late for a Leeds soldier, Private George Edwin Ellison. At 9.30 am he was hit by a bullet and killed. He was the last British soldier to be killed in the war.

He should never have died. The Allies and Germany had signed the Armistice ending the war six hours earlier. They decided to delay its coming into effect until 11 am so that the message could be conveyed to troops at the front. The decision cost Pvt Ellison his life. Fighting went on as the clock ticked towards 11 am. He was one of 11,000 casualties, dead and wounded, struck down on that last fateful day.

The former miner was a regular soldier, not a conscript. At 40 he was older than most of the young men who marched to war.

The circumstances of his death are known.

He was a member of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He was on a scouting mission on the outskirts of the town of Mons in Belgium, investigating a report of Germans seen in nearby woods.

A shot rang out and he fell.

He left a widow, Hannah, and their four-year-old son James.

James grew up to marry and have children. His daughters Catherine and Marie, George's grandaughters, were recently flown by the BBC to the war grave in Belgium where Pvt Ellison is buried.

Military historian Paul Reed, consultant for recent BBC TV documentaries – Timewatch Last Day of WW1 and BBC1 My Family At War – said: "He was a pre-war regular soldier; we can tell this by his number (L /12643) which is consistent with a man who enlisted in the early years of the 20th Century. He may even have been a Boer war veteran, considering his age."

Pvt Ellison had survived the horrors of the trenches for the four years of the war. He had started out at Mons as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, retreating from there in August, 1914. He ended up back at Mons in 1918.

Mr Reed said: "During his four years at the front, George saw every type of warfare. He went into the first trenches as the war became deadlocked. He fought in the first gas attack, and on the Somme in 1916 watched the first ever tanks go up to the front."

On their visit to Mons, Pvt Ellison's granddaughters laid white lilies on their grandfather's grave.

Remembrance events are being staged across the region and the country to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which is also known as the Great War. Almost one million British soldiers died.

This year the ex-service organisation, the Royal British Legion (RBL) launched its Return to Rationing campaign to benefit older veterans. Research by the RBL shows that nearly four in 10 veterans of pensionable age lack the funds needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

And among younger service people and their families, there are regular reports of injury and death in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Remembrance Day events take place on Sunday, November 9, and events are also planned for Armistice Day, on Tuesday, November 11, including a nationwide two minutes silence at 11 am.

Remembrance Day services throughout the region

REMEMBRANCE Day ceremonies will be taking place across the Yorkshire region on Sunday, with some events also planned on Armistice Day itself on Tuesday, November 11, when the nationwide two minutes silence will be observed at 11 am.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Frank Robinson will pay tribute to those who died during conflict when he takes part in a service at the War Memorial in Victoria Gardens this weekend.

A procession will leave Civic Hall at 10.45am and head to the war memorial at Victoria Gardens in the Headrow where wreaths will be laid, including one by the Lord Mayor on behalf of the people of Leeds.

At 11am a bugler will sound the Last Post followed by a two minute silence.

After the service the Lord Mayor and civic representatives will return to the steps of the Civic Hall where a salute and march past will take place.

An Annual Festival of Remembrance will be held in Wakefield Cathedral today, Friday, at 7pm.

The service, organised by Wakefield Council in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, will include an act of remembrance and community singing of traditional wartime tunes, and a parade of standards from the Royal British Legion.

Wakefield Metropolitan Brass Band will provide music.

Tomorrow, Saturday, the British Legion will plant a poppy cross outside the cathedral at 11am.

The annual Remembrance Service and Parade will take place at the cathedral on Sunday from 10.30am.

 
 
 

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