Thursday, August 28, 2014

Corporal Ernest Ellis Islip - Maheno memorial


Ernest Ellis Islip born in 1894 in Milton, Otago was the son of Arthur and Elizabeth Islip. The family moved to Reidston Otago when Ernest was a small boy and for a time his father ran the Maheno Hotel.  At the time of enlisting on 29 May 1915, Ernest was a fireman working for the New Zealand Railways in South Dunedin (His brother Percy was a Station master and Hyde railway station, Otago).

Ernest embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 9 October 1915 and served for a time in Egypt.  Once in France he was promoted to Lance Corporal in December 1916 and he distinguished himself in January 1917 being awarded with a Military Medal Citation below:

London Gazette, 3 June 1919, p7005: For consistently good work before and during a raid on the 7 January 1917, south of Fleurbaix. For ten days prior to the raid he patrolled "No Man's Land". The information that he obtained with regard to the enemy wire, parapet, sentries and method of holding the front line was extremely valuable. During the raid he single handed rounded up ten of the enemy and with assistance succeeded in capturing them together with an additional catch of four. Strength of the raiding party 4 officers 111 o/rs.

In an entry on 3 February 1917 from the First World War diary of Brigadier-General Herbert Hart it  mentions that after attending a church parade with the 2nd Btn Rifle Brigade he (Brig-Gen Hart) presented Corporal Islip with a Military Medal "for good work in a recent raid (7th January)". 

Ernest was killed in action on 19 May 1917 at Messines, Belgium he was 23 years old and by all accounts he was a brave and popular soldier.  His military medal was finally presented posthumously to his brother Percy in January 1918.  I found an extract from a letter from Rifleman Hugh McCullough who embarked with Ernest in October 1915:

CORPORAL ISLIP  The following are a few extracts from Rifleman Hugh McCullough's letters to his mother in Christchurch from France concerning Corporal Ernie Islip, who was killed in action on May 19, and who worked with the railway service in Dunedin before enlisting:-  "Ernie is as brave a lad as you will find. He distinguished himself by leading his men through barbed wire entanglements. He won the Military Medal for bravery in January.  I cannot tell you how or where he was killed, as it is against the censorship regulations; but he died a hero it fairly broke me up to see him. His loss will be greatly felt by all in the battalion, as he was one of the best men they had. Everybody has a good word to say about him. He was very popular, and the best mate I had since leaving New Zealand."   (Hugh McCullough had also worked for the NZ Railways before the war in Dunedin, he survived the war).

Ernest is buried at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.  I found a touching story in the Otago Daily Times dated 10 February 2014 reporting on how descendants of Ernest Islip planted an oak tree at the Maheno Memorial grove, 95 years after others were planted in memory of the fallen.  Ernest had missed out during the original planting as his family had moved away from Maheno. The oak tree planted had been grown from an acorn taken from the original trees. 

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