World War One’s official end date is November 11th, 1918, the day the armistice was signed between France, Britain, and Germany. This is the very day that George Edwin Ellison tragically lost his life. He had served in the previous four years of the war and bore witness to its first bloody battles. He also experienced some of the very first gas attacks and tank assaults.
Born on this day, 10 August 1878, Ellison’s home was in Leeds, he had a small but happy family with his wife Hannah and 4-year-old son James Cornelius. George was enlisted in the army in 1912 but left after his marriage to begin a career as a coal miner. However, the outbreak of The Great War saw him recalled to join the 5th Royal Irish Lancers.
Sadly, he and his family would never be reunited after the war. After four years of nights and days spent in the trenches and in battle, everything abruptly came to an end. Tasked with taking the City of Mons in Belgium, George was scouting the nearby woods on horseback. Suddenly, in a terrible twist of fate, a German sniper shot him. George died at the scene only 90 minutes before the armistice would take full effect.
Today he is buried in the St. Symphorien Cemetery located East of the city in which he died. His gravestone lies opposite of the first British soldier to die in World War One, Pt. John Parr. We visited the cemetery last year on our unique King’s Shilling Tour.
In 2018, a touching poem inspired by George was composed titled “Goodnight Kiss.” It’s written from the perspective of the first soldier, John Parr -
'FIVE strides apart, five summers past, I saluted you and the old sweats riding to War.
I fell first. And waited: while you mined the frozen mud. Ducked into crump holes.
Pinched lice from your seams. Felt the pear (gas) drops’ sting at Wipers. You drink Hannah’s words from home; Jimmy’s walking now.
Then you’re following the tank tracks from Cambrai. The chase draws you to Mons, where your War began.
In the woods on the eleventh day, a goodnight kiss. Ninety minutes to Armistice. My wait ends.
First and last in a bunker for pals, we lie five strides apart.'