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100 years ago: Worsley architect’s only son, 18, killed days after signing up with Royal Fusiliers

Hearing daily stories from 100 years ago in Salford can desensitize us to the the suffering of local families – but the First World War was in full swing and poignant tales are everywhere of young lives snuffed out.

18-year-old Thomas George Rowland Ellis was employed in the Manchester Town Planning Department and lived at Park House in Worsley, with his mother Ellen Ellis and his father, noted Worsley architect George Rowland Ellis.

His uncle was Reverend T Ellis from Winton church, so the family name was well established in the area.

And with this more privileged background the family could no doubt have persuaded the authorities to give him a safer billet.

But had volunteered to sign up at the age of just 18 with the Royal Fusiliers.

Thomas George Rowland Ellis, died age 18

Thomas George Rowland Ellis, died age 18

Doullens Cemetery - via http://www.cwgc.org

Doullens Cemetery – via http://www.cwgc.org

Thomas was educated at the Central Schools, Whitworth Street, Manchester and after leaving he was employed on the office staff of the General and Fine Arts Insurance Company, Manchester.

He must have been eager to ‘do his bit’ and joined the Royal Fusiliers (Sportsmen’s Reserve Battalion), training at Leamington, Oxford and Edinburgh before being shipped over to France.

He was overseas for less three weeks before he met his untimely end.

Thomas George Rowland Ellis, Service No. 3968, died on 26 July 1916 and is buried at Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No.1, just north of Amiens in Northern France.

In a horrible twist of fate, his mother and father received two letters on the same day: one was from Thomas which described the ‘nerve-wracking’ effect of the shell fire raining down on the trenches.

Thomas had written home several times before but his parents were surprised to hear that he was under heavy gunfire because of his young age.

The second letter was from the Army Chaplain who with a heavy heart sadly informed them that Thomas had died in the army hospital from injuries received the previous day, on 26 July 1916.

In a effort to soften the blow he assured the family that they were going to bury Thomas, “in a sweet little cemetery in town” with a cross bearing his name over the grave.

A further letter was received fro the Sister of the hospital extending her sympathy that told George and Ellen that she was with their teenage boy in his final hours.

The Managing Director of General and Fine Arts Insurance Company also wrote to the family offering their condolences: “The staff are deeply affected and have asked me to offer their sympathy in this your sad affliction.

“I had great regard for your son, who always took a real interest in his work, but, what is more, he was a good lad.”

A memorial service was held for him at Winton Church where he had been a member of of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the service was led by his uncle Reverend T. Ellis.

So a young life ended at the tender age of 18, a life that seemed to promise so much for him – that would never come to be.

Main image: Imperial War Museum

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.