At the going down of the sun we shall remember them
Sunday 10 November 2013
As with every Armistice Day since her birth on 11 November 1921, today’s commemoration of the end of the First World War – along with conflicts before and since – will be an occasion of both solemnity and celebration for Dorothy Ellis.
The last surviving widow of a soldier from the Great War, Mrs Ellis will mark her 93rd birthday at a ceremony with a group of army cadets at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire before she lays a wreath in memory of her late husband, Wilfred, and his fallen comrades.
A day after Remembrance Sunday was marked at the Cenotaph in central London with a two-minute silence and a march past by 10,000 veterans and civilians, alongside hundreds of similar ceremonies at home and abroad, the presence of Mrs Ellis will provide a poignant direct link to the men of the 1914-1919 war ahead of next year’s centenary events.
Wilfred Ellis survived being shot, gassed and left for dead in the mud of northern France to return home to eventually marry Dorothy, who was born three years after the end of the war and met her husband – 23 years her junior – when she was in her late teens after he moved to her native Devon.
His story, along with that of two other First World War veterans, formed the basis for the novel War Horse – and the subsequent play and film – after he chatted over a series of evenings to the book’s author Michael Morpurgo in the pub of the Devon village where all four men were living.
Wilfred, who returned home to become first a cruise ship musician and then an antiques dealer with Dorothy, died shortly before the novel was published in 1982.
But Mrs Ellis has kept her late husband’s memory alive, devotedly attending local remembrance services ahead of today’s ceremony, organised by the Royal British Legion. Her niece, Pauline Smith, 59, from Highbridge, Somerset, said: “She is very proud of Wilfred and what he did and she has always felt that it was important that people, in particular the young ones, should know what the soldiers went through.
“The success of War Horse has helped tremendously with that. Wilfred of course did not see the success it would have but we think he would have been pleased as well.”
Among those taking part in Sunday’s Cenotaph commemorations were members of the “secret army” signed up to act as saboteurs in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain. The men of the Auxiliary Units, as the resistance force was known, attended the parade for the first time. Their role, described by one historian as a “suicide mission”, was forgotten after the war because the volunteers had all signed the Official Secrets Act, binding them to silence.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...