A Collection of Awards to Chaplains formed by Philip Mussell
Date of Auction: 27th September 2017
Sold for £3,200
Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200
Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Delhi (The Rev. F. W. Ellis, Chaplain of the Force); India General Service 1854-95, 1 clasp, Bhootan (Revd. F. W. Ellis, Chapn. Bhootan. Fd. Eorce) light contact marks, nearly extremely fine (2) £1800-2200
FootnoteProvenance: Brian Ritchie Collection part I, Dix Noonan Webb, September 2004.
Illustrated on the front cover of the Medal Yearbook 2009.
FitzHenry William Ellis, the son of Henry Ellis, was born in Dublin in 1818, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered holy orders in 1844 and briefly held a curacy at All Souls, Marylebone. The following year he went out to India and became chaplain at Meerut. He was appointed chaplain at Ambala in 1849, and, in early August 1857, joined the Delhi Field Force on the Ridge to assist the Rev. J. R. Rotton.
‘I looked forward anxiously for this gentleman’s arrival,’ Rotton afterwards recalled, ‘knowing that I should then be relieved by him of at least one half of my present duty ... My excellent colleague, the Rev. F. W . Ellis, M.A., ... kindly relieved me of my morning sermon before head-quarters camp. The special form of prayer, from the Venerable Archdeacon Pratt, directed to be employed during the continuance of the present troubles, was used for the first time on that day.’
On 16 August, staff officer Colonel Keith Young recorded in his diary: ‘Special service of Humiliation: Mr Ellis preached. Quiet day; rain in evening’. Two days later Ellis’s flock was extended to include the Artillery, Engineers, and the 1st and 3rd Infantry Brigades, containing H.M’s 75th Highlanders, the 2nd Bengal Europeans, H.M’s 8th and 61st Regiments, besides ‘some native regiments, the ministerial duty attaching to which was a mere nothing’.
The chaplains were required to constantly visit the overflowing hospitals, of which there were no fewer than fourteen. ‘It required strong nerves to withstand the sickening sights of these infirmaries. The patients constantly retching made the place very offensive. The flies, almost as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore, alighted on your face and head, and crawled down your back, through the openings of the shirt collar and occasionally flew even into your throat.’ Rotton remembered that while ‘every brave dying man had some consolation and exhortation addressed to him ... the majority could not receive anything like the attention which the urgency of their cases imperatively demanded’.
Subjected to the many miseries of the camp, Ellis eventually fully succumbed to the fever which he contracted on his arrival on the Ridge. ‘On account of this fever’, Rotton recorded, ‘he was urged by medical advisers, again and again to leave camp; but he would not: his labours were constant in season and out of season. From the commencement of his illness, until the close of his career before Delhi, he never gave himself time to rally or regain strength. How could he? He was responsible, when sharing the hardships of the army, for an amount of clerical duty which, previously to the mutiny, had been divided among no less than five chaplains. The whole of this, in an accumulated form, was heaped without consideration, possibly without help, upon one man. The result has been after two months’ service with the Delhi Field Force that the man has been driven home in search of health.’
Ellis recovered to return to India, and in April 1865 he accompanied Brigadier-General Sir Harry Tombs’ Field Force into Bhootan, being present at the storm and capture of Dewangiri. In 1867 Ellis was at Lucknow, but by 1874 had returned home to become chaplain at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. He died at his home at 21 Gloucester Place, Hyde Park, London, on 28 March 1886.