Lieutenant Joseph Ellison


Joseph Ellison was born on 25 December 1884 at Ballydavey, County Down, the fourth of nine children of labourer James Ellison and his wife Martha (nee Breeze or Keenan or McClure). In April 1906 he married Abigail Doyle at the Presbyterian Church, Belmont, Co Down. At the time he was working as a labourer and living at 13 Stoneyford Street, Belfast. Over the next eight years the couple had five children, two of whom died before their second birthday. By 1911 they were living at 18 Dundela Street, Strandtown, Belfast and working as an engineer's helper.

It is probable that Ellison had some pre-war military experience, possibly with the North Irish Horse or its predecessor the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry.

Ellison enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast between 17 and 20 August 1914 (No.1017), just days after his brother John Ellison. Both embarked for France on 20 August with C Squadron, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. Joseph's exploits (or that of his brother) were referred to by a pal Corporal Fred Lindsay in a Belfast Weekly Times report:

Trooper Ellison, ... of Belfast, rode by mistake into a Uhlan camp, but happily for him the night was so dark that he had discovered his mistake before he was recognised, and was almost clear of the camp again before the Uhlans were aware that he was not one of themselves. Just as he came to the high wire fence surrounding the camp one of the Uhlans struck a match to light his pipe, and Ellison stood revealed. Putting spurs to his horse, he attempted to jump the fence, but his mount baulked and threw him over its head into a drain on the outside. Amid a hail of bullets Ellison managed to run along the drain and escape in safety to the high road. Here he fell in with a motorist despatch rider, who gave him a "lift" behind him for some miles. Two weeks later he rejoined his troop, little the worse for his experience.

In June 1916 C Squadron was combined with F Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron  to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until August 1917, when orders came that the regiment would be dismounted and the men transferred to the infantry. Ellison was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt. They embarked from Marseilles on board HMT Bohemian on 25 August. After a month at Alexandria they returned to France, through Italy. On 5 October they arrived at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur for infantry training. After just a few days they were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion, joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October. Ellison was issued regimental number 41566. He retained his sergeant's rank.

It is likely that he saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

In 1918 Ellison applied for a commission and left France for officer cadet training in the UK. On 25 September that year he was appointed 2nd lieutenant and posted to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He relinquished his commission on 23 January 1920.

On 9 April 1921 Ellison joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (No.1885) and was posted to I Company. He was discharged on 17 January 1922 when the group was demobilised. (See the website The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary.)

At the beginning of the Second World War Ellison was appointed lieutenant in the National Defence Companies, serving on home defence duties in the Royal Ulster Rifles. He died at his residence, 41 Spamount Street, Belfast, on 19 May 1945, and was buried in the City Cemetery, Glenalina Extension.


This page last updated 5 January 2023.