5723 L/SJT. B. A. ELLIS
Memorial Cross -KiA El Alamein - Ellis
GVI Memorial Cross to 5723 L/Sgt Brian Ashford Ellis, 19 and 25 Battalion, 2nd NZEF
Brian Ashford Ellis, b. 24 Feb 1917 at Te Puke, New Zealand. Son of John William and Barbara Graham Ellis (née Snodgrass). Married Mavis Josephine Lockwood in 1939. Employed as a labourer at Tolaga Bay, East Cape. Embarked with the First Echelon with the 2nd Divisional Employment Platoon. Transferred to 19 Battalion in September 1940 and served with Lustre Force on Greece and Crete. Promoted to lance-corporal in July 1941, and to corporal in October 1941. Transferred to 25 Battalion in July 1942 and promoted to lance-sergeant in September 1942. Killed in action 24th October 1942. Buried El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt.
Remarkably Ellis was mentioned twice in the official history of 19 Battalion for events on Crete, but was not the recipient of any honours or awards:
The fighting at this stage was following no ordered pattern, but there was plenty of scope for, and many examples of, individual initiative. Some exciting one-man battles were staged. One outstanding duel was that between Corporal Bert Ellis of 14 Platoon Hawke’s Bay Company and an enemy heavy mortar. The platoon position was on a forward slope of a promontory which jutted out towards the strongly occupied area on Cemetery Hill. With all the section posts evidently clearly visible to the enemy on the high ground, 14 Platoon was having a hot time. One mortar in particular was causing a lot of worry, and around the platoon headquarters’s slit trench there were thirteen bomb craters. Deciding to try a desperate measure, Ellis crawled out to a flank, taking with him a captured spandau and a good supply of ammunition. He located the mortar and took it on single-handed. The duel went on at least a dozen rounds without apparent score on either side, but by drawing the fire away from his platoon position Ellis undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.
19 Battalion and Armoured Regiment (W. D. Sinclair), Page 149-150
Casualties in the battalion on 26 May were heavy. At 7 a.m. the whole of the unit area came under heavy fire from the ground while strafing from the air was almost continuous. The enemy was trying to force a breach through the road cutting and was throwing in everything he had to obtain his objective. It was a bad morning. Viewing it in retrospect, a member of the unit who afterwards saw service in every theatre in which the Division was employed said: ‘It was my worst day in the whole war.’ Headquarters Company had thirty men killed and wounded in about as many minutes, and by 2 p.m. enemy patrols had pushed up close enough to our forward platoons to use stick bombs which they hurled from under cover of an embankment. Nos. 5 and 6 Platoons, who had borne the brunt of the attack, used their single remaining grenade effectively before they were forced to retire approximately 150 yards. The enemy quickly moved in to occupy the ground just vacated, but a forward section from a Taranaki Company platoon hotly engaged them and, assisted by several effective bombs from our 3-inch mortar, forced the enemy to withdraw once more.
Taking advantage of this diversion Lieutenant Keith Cockerill and Corporal Bert Ellis did a quick reconnaissance. They had the unenviable experience of being singled out by two low-flying Me110s and chased over the ridge and back again. At 2.15 p.m., however, 14 Platoon reoccupied the position. A platoon from 21 Battalion, supported by a light tank, eased the pressure on the 19th when they moved on to a feature across the road and gave covering fire to our right flank. During the rest of the afternoon the enemy made several attacks but failed to penetrate further.
19 Battalion and Armoured Regiment (W. D. Sinclair), Page 160
Ellis’s mother, Barbara, had died in 1918, when Brian was just an infant, and his wife had remarried following his death, thus a single Memorial Cross was issued in 1948 to his father, John William Ellis. Ellis’s full medal entitlement is 1939/45 Star, Africa Star w/clasp ‘8th Army’, 1939/45 War Medal and New Zealand War Service Medal, these medals being issued in 1950.
The Memorial Cross is correctly impressed 5723 L/SJT. B. A. ELLIS and comes in case of issue with transmittal slip. A copy of the the service file is also available to the purchaser.