New book published on local Sussex artist and First World War soldier

The Sussex Record Society and West Sussex Record Office have collaborated to publish an illustrated memoir of a local soldier who fought in the First World War.


Release date: 1 September 2020

Ralph Ellis, born in Arundel in 1885, joined the Royal Sussex Regiment on the outbreak of war in 1914 and served in the trenches.

Ellis saw action in the Battle of Loos and the Battle of the Somme. He was left permanently disabled after being wounded by shrapnel at Ypres in 1917.

The memoir, written during his long period of convalescence, contains sketches and paintings of Ellis’s comrades, local scenes and the destruction wreaked by war. 

His accompanying text records in detail the reality of life in the trenches and the result is a powerful and compelling account of an ordinary soldier’s experience of war.

Professor Brian Short, President of the Sussex Record Society, said: “We are delighted that this our latest volume will celebrate the links not only with those who sacrificed so much in the First World War but also demonstrate the service they performed on the European mainland, allowing us to look outwards beyond our normal county boundaries. We thank Sue Hepburn for her editorship of this moving tribute, and to do full justice to the original memoir, this book, which will be Volume 100 published by the Sussex Record Society, presents a full colour facsimile of the original manuscript.”

Wendy Walker, County Archivist, West Sussex Record Office, said: “The Ralph Ellis Archive is one of the highlights of our collections and I am delighted that this publication will enable many more people to discover and explore his fascinating story. He was man of Sussex who returned from the war to train at the Slade School of Fine Art and lived in Arundel until his death in 1963. He went on to establish his reputation as a portrait and landscape painter but is arguably best known locally for his intricate and beautiful inn signs.”

The original memoir in five volumes is held at West Sussex Record Office together with the archive of the Royal Sussex Regiment and a visit can be booked to view these at the Record Office.

The Great War Memoir of Ralph Ellis, Sussex Artist and Soldier, is now on sale to the public and can be ordered through the Sussex Record Society website.

The cost is £45 or £40 for members.

A gallery of images from the book can be viewed in the Ellis Gallery and if you’re interested in joining the Sussex Record Society or finding out about their work, you can visit their website for more details.

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