It is believed 750,000 British personnel were killed during the four bloody years of the Great War - and the last man to be included in that heartrending statistic was from Yorkshire.
York-born and Leeds-raised, George Edwin Ellison was a career soldier, serving throughout the war with the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. But 90 minutes before the Armistice at 11am on 11 November 1918, Private Ellison was shot dead by a German sniper while patrolling woods near the Belgian town of Mons.
The 40-year-old’s death came six days before the fifth birthday of his only child, James.
Private Ellison’s poignant place in military history is finally recognised in the days leading up to the centenary of the Great War ending by a plaque unveiled at Leeds Rail Station. Quietly watching on were the soldier’s ancestors.
Local historian Ed Carlisle and Leeds Civic Trust raised £2,000 to pay for the plaque to be made and erected. “I thought it was important we recognise George’s efforts. Though he lived in the city, I thought the station would be a good place to have it as he probably left from here to get to Belgium,” he said.
“How cruel to be killed such a short time before peace broke out. His widow Hannah Maria and only child James must have been heartbroken.’
Private Ellison had survived four years of trench warfare, including fighting in the Battles of Ypres and the Somme without suffering any injuries, only to die on the cusp of peace.
In a further twist to his tragic story, the one-time coal miner is buried in St Symphorien Military Cemetery at Mons - just feet away from the grave of John Parr, the first British soldier to die in World War One.
While only one photograph of George Ellison exists today, it is fitting that the life and death of the humble working class Yorkshire man will be remembered and recognised by millions in the coming days.