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Jack Ellis

Jack EllisDriver Jack Ellis, 821447, Royal Field Artillery, 49th Battery, 40th Brigade

Jack Ellis was born in 1896.

He enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery at Bradford.

The 40th Brigade, RFA was originally comprised of numbers 6, 23 and 49 Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column. It was placed under command of the 3rd Division and went to France with it in August 1914. 130 (Howitzer) Battery joined from 30 (Howitzer) Brigade of the same division, on 14 May 1916.

The 40th Brigade RFA was heavily involved in the Battle of Menin Road from the 20th - 27th September 1917, which was an offensive operation, part of the Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front, undertaken by the British Second Army in an attempt to take sections of the curving ridge, east of Ypres, which the Menin Road crossed. Considered one of the 'hottest' spots of the Western Front, and certainly in the Ypres Salient, the Menin Road was the scene of frequent artillery fire directed by German forces against the predominantly British presence in the Salient.

In the aftermath of the earlier failures at Ypres, General Plumer suggested an alternative plan – his "bite and hold" strategy. This was designed to use the German plan against them. The British would pick a small part of the front line, hit it with a heavy bombardment and then attack in strength. The advancing troops would stop once they had penetrated 1,500 yards into the German lines. At this point they would have overrun the German front line and perhaps some of the strong points behind the lines. The attacking troops would then stop and dig in. When the German counterattack was launched, instead of finding a mass of exhausted and disorganised men at the limit of the Allied advance, they would find a well organised defensive line. Plumer was given permission to try his new plan, and three weeks to prepare. His men received detailed training. The battle began with a creeping barrage 1,000 yards deep, which protected the attacking infantry. The British attacked with four divisions – from north to south the 2nd Australian, 1st Australian, 23rd and 41st Divisions.

This action saw the first involvement of Australian units (1st and 2nd Divisions AIF) in the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack was successful along its entire front, though the advancing troops had to overcome formidable entrenched German defensive positions which included mutually supporting concrete pill-box strongpoints and also resist fierce German counter-attacks. A feature of this battle was the intensity of the opening British artillery support.

The majority of Plumer’s objectives were captured on the first day of the attack, only the 41st Division needed to follow up on the following day. German counter-attacks were repulsed the first and second days of the attack. Three quiet days followed, during which time the 23rd and 41st divisions were relieved. The battle ended with a final German counterattack on 25 September, again repulsed without serious problems. The two Australian divisions lost 5,000 men during the attack. Plumer’s tactics caused a great deal of concern amongst the German High Command. Their elaborate defensive structure, built up over three years of war, had been turned against them. Given the right preparation the British had proved themselves capable of biting chunks out of the Germans line without getting carried away.

Driver Jack Ellis, 49th Battery, 40th Brigade RFA of the 3rd Division, was killed in action aged 21 on the 20th September 1917. He formerly lived in Pickersgill Street, Ossett.

The Menin Road September 1917

Above: The Menin Road in September 1917

Driver Jack Ellis is buried at grave reference I. F. 29 at the Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3 2, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3 is located 6.5 km west of Ieper town centre, on the Zevekotestraat, a road leading from the N308 connecting Ieper to Poperinge.

During the First World War, Brandhoek was within the area comparatively safe from shell fire which extended beyond Vlamertinghe Church. Field ambulances were posted there continuously. Until July 1917 burials had been made in the Military Cemetery, but the arrival of the 32nd, 3rd Australian and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations, in preparation for the new Allied offensive launched that month, made it necessary to open the New Military Cemetery.

The New Military Cemetery No 3 opened in August and continued in use until May 1918. Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3 contains 975 First World War burials.

References:

1. "Ossett Observer",

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site