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Private Sidney Ellis

Private Sidney Ellis

 

Unit : Battalion Headquarters, 1st Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 6974976

 

Sidney Ellis was a Runner with Battalion Headquarters. He was killed at Arnhem on the 18th September 1944. Tracey Poole requests any information about him: "Sidney Ellis (6974976), 38 years old, 1st Parachute Battalion, is my Grandfathers brother, I would like to find out any information about him. Born Belfast, Northern Ireland, son of William and Clara Ellis, husband of Elizabeth Ellis. Former Royal Irish Fusiliers. Tracey Poole, traceyandgreg@hotmail.com"

 

The following are newspaper articles concerning him:

 

TWO MEN FROM ARNHEM TELL THEIR STORY: These two Belfast paratroopers quitted Holland with regret: they had left their pal - Fighting Sid, of Sandy Row - behind

 

Two of the men of Arnhem arrived in Belfast on Friday on leave. They were Paratroopers Samuel Hillis, of Spruce Street (Donegall Pass), and James Ussher, Sydney Street West. But the joy of homecoming was tempered with sadness because they had left behind them at Arnhem their Sandy Row pal, Sidney Ellis, of Blythe Street.

 

"Poor Sid was killed on the second day at Arnhem - by a sniper's bullet," said Paratrooper Hillis to a "Belfast Telegraph" reporter. "We were engaged in street fighting at the time, and were being pushed back when a bullet struck him on the chin bone and was deflected through his heart.

 

"Jimmy and I were fighting beside him at this time, and thinking it was only a wound we proceeded to give him first aid, but when we turned him over he was dead. That's why it hasn't been such fun coming home this time. We three were the only Belfastmen in our battalion, and we were in many a tight corner together. Strictly speaking he shouldn't have been in the Paratroops at all because he was 38 and too old, but a little thing like that didn't trouble Sid. He liked to be wherever there was trouble, and he certainly was in plenty of trouble at the last. All three of us have been in many a 'big show' in the last few years, but we were never in anything like Arnhem. It was like going through hell. Sid, however, was in his element and he died fighting like a lion."

 

His friend, Jimmy, said Paratrooper Hillis, had removed their pal's red beret and Airborne badge, and had brought them home as keepsakes for the widow.

 

Paratrooper Hillis, who is only 23, has himself borne a "changed life" since he joined the Army four years ago. He was a year in the Inniskillings, but the infantry wasn't exciting enough, so he transferred to the Paratroops. He has got more excitement than he bargained for since then, but it's "a great life," he says.

 

Altogether he has made 46 drops, including three operational, and has also been in one of the biggest seaborne landings of the war. After his first big drop in Africa his unit were utilised as infantry and had a hand in some of the most sensational victories of the African campaign.

 

Then over to Sicily, where he took part in the historic landing at Catania, and was one of the survivors of the heroic 600 who held the bridge there in July of last year. It was in Sicily that he had his "narrow shave," as he calls it - a mortar bomb burst on a parapet a few yards away "and I don't know yet how on earth I escaped."

 

At Arnhem, said Paratrooper Hillis, the Division thought it was going to be easy after all when no flak came up at them, but it wasn't long until they discovered their mistake. His battalion, which made the first descent, dropped four miles from the town, and launched their attack almost immediately. The Germans, however, attacked with tanks the same night, and the battalion had to withdraw owing to their losses. They retreated to a village on the banks of the Rhine and dug in wherever they could to begin their long ordeal.

 

The rest, said Paratrooper Hillis, was not history but although they had spent nine long and anxious days at Arnhem and few of them expected to get out alive, they had their amusing moments. As for instance, when the Germans on the other side of the river got their loud-speaker going and entreated them to "give it up."

 

"They spoke across to us in perfect English, promising us good food and comfortable beds, and telling us that we hadn't an earthly of getting out alive, but we only laughed at them, and enjoyed the records they used to play for us."

 

Then there was the comedy of the prisoners cage at Divisional H.Q. There were about 150 Germans held in this, and owing to the peculiar conditions of the Arnhem operation it was impossible to move them to a place of safety. Thus the Germans, like their beleaguered captors, were right in the front line with cannon and mortar shells and machine-gun bullets flying around them.

 

"We didn't feel any too happy ourselves," remarked Paratrooper Hillis, "but those Germans were the limit. They were running about their prison cages, simply gibbering with fear and trying to burrow down out of sight. One of their own officers, a major, was so disgusted that he let them have it, telling them they were a disgrace to the German Wehrmacht and Hitler's Reich, but it didn't do them a bit of good. Those fellows were scared out of their wits - and no wonder."

 

Paratroopers Hillis and Ussher are now on 14 days' leave. A big part of it, they say, will be spent sleeping to make up for "all the sleep we lost at Arnhem."

 

Paratrooper Ussher, who has 10 years' Army service, formerly belonged to the Oxford and Bucks Regiment. He has received a presentation of a wallet of notes from the neighbours of Sydney Street West. This was handed over by Messrs Mullen and J Spratt.

 

 

FIGHTING SIDNEY ELLIS. Sandy Row Hero who Fell at Arnhem

 

We published the other day the story of the three Belfast paratroopers who dropped at Arnhem, and the one who did not return. This was Fighting Sidney Ellis, who died from a sniper's bullet in the streets of Arnhem, fighting to the last.

 

"Fighting Sid," who was 37, spent the great part of his life fighting in various parts of the world. Joining the Army as a youth he spent seven years in India where skirmishing with ferocious tribesmen provided him with an apprenticeship which was to stand him in good stead.

 

Then he spent seven or eight years on the Reserve, but civilian life proved too tame for this man of action and off he went to Palestine as a member of the Palestine Police Force. He had two and a half years service - and excitement.

 

On his return from Palestine he became a warder at Belfast Prison, but when the war began and the call for volunteers went out "Fighting Sid" was one of the first to respond.

 

He joined his old regiment, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, but later transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps with which he served in some of the "tightest corners" of the war. A little over a year ago, seeking "still more excitement" he volunteered for the "Red Devils" and got it in Italy.

 

But it was at Arnhem that "Fighting Sid" got his biggest thrill of all. "He revelled in that bitter fighting." say his comrades. "And he would not have chosen a better death."

 

His brother, Mr. James Ellis, has been 25 years in the Royal Marines.

 

"Fighting Sid's" wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Ellis, lives at 204 Blythe Street (Sandy Row). Her brother, Fusilier Thomas Sinclair, 4 M'Ivor's Place, now serving with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy, was wounded there some time ago.

 

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