Last Survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade honoured at Hale

13 June 2013

Last Survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade honoured at Hale photo

Members of the King’s Royal Hussars, the Royal British Legion and the Chelsea Pensioners will attend a special service on June 8 to mark 100 years since the death of the last surviving member of the charge of the Light Brigade.

St Mark’s Church, Hale, will remember the life of former Upper Hale resident Mr William Ellis who had been Trooper Ellis of the 11th Hussars when he participated in ‘that gallant but futile dash’ during the Crimean War.

Priest in Charge the Revd Alan Crawley said: “St Mark’s Church was built by the community and for the community in 1882 and a relationship with the Armed Forces has always been part of that.

“Right now servicemen and women are at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers and it is important to remember William Ellis, just as it is every soldier who has served their country. We are delighted to be welcoming members of today’s Army and associated organisations to the service.”

Mr Ellis had served throughout the Crimean War and been awarded medals for service at Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastapol before moving to Hale after retiring from his regiment.

He continued his association with the Army by following various forms of employment at Aldershot Camp and this proximity to the new base of his former regiment meant that he was afforded a funeral on a remarkable scale.

A local paper at the time reported that almost 100 soldiers gathered for the occasion and the small coffin was at the centre of an ‘imposing pageant’.

It said: “Leading the way from the residence of the deceased to St Mark’s Church, only about a hundred yards, came the band of the regiment playing Beethoven’s Funeral March, and this was followed by a gun carriage of J Battery R.B.A bearing the coffin, covered by the Union Jack on which was laid the deceased’s sword, with his medals attached.

“Behind, a fine black charger, decked with black and white ribbons, and with the military boots of the old soldier reversed in the stirrups, was led by two grooms in long military black coats, and crepe-swathed helmets, and then came the long string of mourners led by the aged widow. Bringing up the rear were some 50 non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment (many of them bearing wreaths).”

Alan concluded: “I am sure Mr Ellis would have been staggered to see his own funeral – and quite probably even more so if he knew we would be marking his life 100 years later.

“The world of ‘fine black chargers’ may seem a long way away but the principles of honouring service are the same today.”

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