Ellerton J.W.


134901 Gunner Joseph William Ellerton, Royal Field Artillery died 28 October 1917 and is buried at Sarigol Military Cemetery, Kriston, Salonika, Greece. [1] He was 23 years old and is commemorated on Cockfield War Memorial.

Family Details

Joseph William was born 1894[2] at Gainford, Co. Durham to John and Jane Ellerton.  There were 5 children:

  • Annie bc.1875 at Aycliffe
  • Lilly bc.1887 at Evenwood
  • Elizabeth bc.1889 at Evenwood
  • Reginald bc.1891 at Gainford
  • Joseph W. born 1894 at Gainford

Agnes bc.1897 at Middleton-in-Teesdale was their granddaughter who lived with them at Station Terrace, Winston.  John worked as a railway platelayer.[3]  By 1911, only 17 year old Joseph William and 24 year old Lily lived with their parents at Winston Station.  Joseph worked as a colliery labourer.[4]  In 1916, Joseph married Minnie Hillary[5] who lived at Cockfield.  In 1911, 14 year old Minnie lived with her grandmother, Margaret, her Uncle Edward and younger brothers Edwin (6) and John (3).  It is likely that Joseph moved from the North Tees Colliery at Winston to seek work at one of the pits in the Cockfield area.

Service Details

The service record of Gunner J.W. Ellerton has not been researched.  He served with the “B” Medium Trench Mortar Battery, Royal Field Artillery[6] but the exact Division is (to date) unknown so the relevant war diary has not been researched.

Gunner J.W. Ellerton died 28 October 1917 of “recurrent malaria” in 21st Stationary Hospital, Sarigol, Greece and was buried the same day in the military cemetery.[7]

Gunner J.W. Ellerton was awarded the British War and Victory medals therefore he did not serve abroad until after 31 December 1915. [8]

The Salonika Campaign

Anglo-French forces began landing at the Greek port of Salonika (now Thessaloniki) on 5 October 1915. The troops were sent to provide military assistance to the Serbs who had recently been attacked by combined German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies. The intervention came too late to save Serbia and after a brief winter campaign in severe weather conditions on the Serbian frontier, the Anglo-French forces found themselves back at Salonika.

At this point the British advised that the troops be withdrawn. However, the French – with Russian, Italian and Serbian backing – still believed something of strategic importance could be gained in the Balkans.

After preparing the port of Salonika for defence, the troops moved up country. During 1916, further Allied contingents of Serbian, Italian and Russian troops arrived and offensive operations began. These culminated in the fall of Monastir to Franco-Serb forces during November. A second offensive during the spring of 1917, the British part of which was the First Battle of Doiran (24-25 April and 8-9 May 1917), made little impression on the Bulgarian defences. The front-line remained more or less static until September 1918, when a third offensive was launched. During this the British attacked at Doiran for a second time (18-19 September 1918). With a breakthrough by Serbian forces west of the river Vardar the Bulgarian army was forced into a general retreat. The campaign concluded with the surrender of Bulgaria on 30 September 1918.

The British Salonika Force was commanded by Lieutenant General George Milne from May 1916, following General Sir Bryan Mahon’s posting to Egypt. At its height – late 1916 to early 1917 – it comprised six infantry divisions, grouped into two corps:

  • XII Corps: 22nd, 26th, 60th Divisions
  • XVI Corps: 10th, 27th, 28th Divisions

This made it a mixture of Regular, New Army and Territorial formations, with battalions of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh origin. Yeomanry (in the 7th and 8th Mounted Brigades and as Divisional and Headquarters troops) and cyclists provided the BSF’s mounted element. The only crucial weakness lay in artillery, especially howitzers.

In support were Royal Engineers; British, Maltese and Macedonian Labour Battalions; ASC, Indian and Maltese muleteers; RAMC, Canadian and volunteer medical services. Air support was provided by Nos. 17 and 47 Squadrons RFC, and No 17 Kite Balloon Section. A third squadron, No. 150, was formed during 1918. RNAS aircraft based at Stavros and on the island of Thasos also assisted with operations.

Malaria proved to be a serious drain on manpower during the campaign. In total the British forces suffered 162,517 cases of the disease and in total 505,024 non-battle casualties. With the campaign being a low priority for the War Office the assistance rendered by voluntary medical organisations, such as the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, proved invaluable. [9]


Gunner J.W. Ellerton is buried at grave reference A.28, Sarigol Military Cemetery.  There are 682 WW1 Commonwealth burials here.  The 21st and 35th Stationary Hospitals operated in the area from April 1917 to December 1918.

Another soldier from Cockfield to be laid to rest here is Private B. Kirby, buried at grave reference A.7.   [10]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.252 Q1.1894

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] England & Wales Marriage Index Vol.10a p.489 Teesdale Q1 1916

[6] CWGC

[7] CWGC note: a date of 25.10.17 is given but this is amended by hand to read 28

[8] Medal Roll card index

[9] http://www.salonikacampaignsociety.org.uk/index.php/campaign/76-campaign

[10] CWGC


Thanks to Martin Gibson, Alan Wakefield and members of the Salonika Campaign Society and Minas and his daughter for taking the time and trouble to photograph Joseph William Ellerton’s grave.







ELLERTON J.W. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

3 thoughts on “Ellerton J.W.

  1. Pingback: COCKFIELD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Thank you for the info on Joseph ellerton .he was my great grandfather and you have validstd whst I have found out about him and its nice to know that someone else cared to find out about him.


    • Many thanks for the kind words. You will see from the acknowledgments that members of the Salonika Society took the photos for me. I have not visited Salonika yet. If you have a photo of Joseph, I would be happy to post it. There are a group of us from Evenwood/Cockfield who pre-covid visited France/Belgium regularly. Lest we forget.


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