For many of our grandparents and parents, the Second World War demanded they risk their lives to save us from an invasion by the Nazis under Hitler. One of those is Royston – known as Roy – Ellis, from Clapham. He was still in his 20s when his plane was shot down over Holland and made the ultimate sacrifice. Now his nephew, Norman Smith, is trying to piece together as much of Roy’s life as possible. Here he tells TOBY PORTER about his appeal for anyone who knew the young flyer, as a last throw of the dice in an attempt to assemble a proper tribute to his brave uncle.
Norman Smith is rightly proud of the fact his uncle Roy Ellis, from Clapham, died for his country. He was a sergeant in the RAF – who died on August 31, 1943 while on active duty over the Netherlands.
The young pilot was shot down two-and-a-half years after marrying Norman’s aunt Doreen. His parents placed Roy in the obituary column of The Daily Telegraph on each anniversary of his death.
Norman said: “I remember him well even though I was only six years old when he died.
“My investigations all started when my mother and her sisters died, after my father. As the sole survivor of the family, I found the telegrams, love letters, and a great deal of correspondence from the Air Ministry, Red Cross and other agencies about Roy.
“The research began, with the help of my good friends.”
The details Norman has found are sketchy. Royston – as he was christened – Roy Hazeldine George Ellis, born amid the First World War, on July 31, 1916, at 85 Gauden Road, Clapham, to Percival George Ellis, a bottle merchant, and Lily Edith Ellis, nee Hazeldine.
Roy, then 24, married Norman’s aunt, Doreen Constance Margery Stokes on the March 10, 1941.
Norman does not think there are any other children in the family but someone from his family named Joy Ellis and Doreen’s sister Eileen Stokes were witnesses at the marriage in Cambridge.
Doreen was a hairdresser at Selfridges department store after the war but during it, she worked out of Shell House in the Strand.
Documents show Roy was a First Class Aircraftsman no. 918424 and pianist.
Roy’s family kept the fateful telegram.
It was addressed to Mrs DCM Ellis of 253 Balham High Road and said: “Regret to inform you that your husband 918424 Ellis RHG is reported missing as a result of air operations on the night of 30/31 August 1943 letter follows stop any further information received will be communicated to you immediately 199 Squadron.”
The letter was from Buckingham Palace.
It said: “The Queen and I offer our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow. We pray that your country’s gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may give you some measure of consolation.”
It is signed: “George R.I.” Norman said: “My memory of Roy is short. I only recall two events – which were very exciting for me at the time.
“I was told that he had played on the BBC radio but have not been able to confirm this.
“The first occasion was when he gave me a red wooden railway engine that I could sit on and propel myself with my feet which he had made for me.
“How he managed to get materials for this, I don’t know. But I think he got some help from his mates at his camp.
“The other time was when he took me to an airfield somewhere and placed me inside a Mosquito and a large bomber which again was very exciting. This I think was something for my birthday.
“And it was just before he was killed.”
Norman and his wife Catherine, with our friends, went to Holland to see the grave.
“We were met by a German friend of the others who took us to the local bar,” recalled Norman.
“The landlord asked us about him.
“We told him about the reason for our visit to the Eindhoven Cemetery. One of those present told us that he had seen this aircraft come down about a mile from where we then stood.”
That is as much detail as Norman has gleaned.
Now he is trying to trace any of Roy’s surviving relatives.
He said: “I have carried out research on the raid and his being shot down and hold all this information, in case others are interested, including visiting the grave which he shares with otherwise all Australian crew of the Stirling Bomber.
“It would be good to hear from any relatives who can help with more of his story.”
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