‘Stand down Ray, duty done’ Tributes paid to Hucknall war hero

editorial image

Hucknall war hero and last man standing at the Battle of Knightsbridge, Ray Ellis, has died aged 94.
Tributes have been made this week after news of his death last week became known.

Major Tom Waldron-Lynch of the South Nottinghamshire Hassars said Mr Ellis would be sadly missed.

“Ray became a talisman and mentor for the battery here in Bulwell. He was a regular visitor and would spend time with the young soldiers who loved to hear about his unique experiences in the Second World War.

“Ray was always very humble about what he’d done,” added Major Waldron-Lynch. “He despised violence and war but recognised that unfortunately the Second World War had to be fought.

“He will be deeply missed and because we saw quite a lot of him, it is like losing someone who is serving.”

The Second World War soldier was the last surviving veteran of the 1942 battle which saw the 107th Regiment of South Nottinghamshire Hussars virtually wiped out.

The North African battle was one of the most celebrated acts of bravery in the Royal Artillery’s history.

For Ray though the fact that he survived the Battle of Knightsbridge against the odds and in the face of attacks from armoured tanks was merely a matter of luck.

Ray spoke to the Dispatch just last year after he featured on television’s Antiques Roadshow when the programme was filmed in Newstead Abbey grounds and featured a painting of the battle by world-renowned artist Terence Cuneo in 1978.

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 headteacher in Kirkby Woodhouse.

The painting hangs at the Queen’s Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum, at Thoresby Courtyard, near Ollerton.

Mr Ellis wrote a book about his experiences in the Battle of Gazala in 1942, called Once a Hussar.

President of Hucknall Royal British Legion, David Gargett, said the Legion was proud to remember him.

“Stand down Ray, duty done.”