Hucknall veteran Ray Ellis in a picture of heroism

Ray Ellis.
Ray Ellis.

TO many, Ray Ellis is a Second World War hero. A member of the South Nottinghamshire Hussars, he was the last man standing after a rearguard action to delay the advance of the enemy in North Africa.

For Ray though, now 93 and living at his Hucknall home, the fact that he survived the Battle of Knightsbridge in June 1942 against the odds and in the face of attacks from armoured tanks was merely a matter of luck.

The battle where so many of Ray’s “brothers-in-arms” were killed was depicted in a painting by world-renowned artist Terence Cuneo in 1978.

That painting was recently seen by viewers of the Antiques Roadshow when the programme was filmed at Newstead Abbey, and Ray was reunited with it.

Ray told the Dispatch: “I’ve known that picture from its inauguration as I advised the artist. I was at the battle and I know what it was like.

“The picture hasn’t brought memories back because they never went away. There were 500 of us and we fought together for three years and in many battles. In effect, we became brothers.

“It was a rearguard action. Every man knew that they were going to die that day. By some miracle, I was virtually the last man standing.”

Mr Ellis was captured and taken to Italy. He escaped and was taken to a family who sheltered him. He later named one of his three daughters Nerina after one of the women who took him to that family. Mr Ellis later became a head teacher in Kirkby Woodhouse.

The painting, which was not for sale, hangs at the Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum, at Thoresby Courtyard, near Ollerton.

Captain Mick Holtby, the curator, said: “I think it is quite unique. We have a wonderful painting but also to have a survivor of the battle that is depicted is quite something.”

The museum’s website is www.qrlnymuseum.co.uk