LOUDONVILLE -- If you don't know the exploits of Frank Ellis, take a moment to appreciate the part he played in American military history.
A former Loudonville resident and employee of the Flxible Company, Ellis was a highly decorated veteran of World War I, and his exploits in the war were fit for a novel.
Ellis was born in England in 1886. He was a gifted artist in his youth and attended college at Oxford before becoming the private chauffeur to King George V. In 1915, he left the service of the King to enter the British Army, and was assigned to the Intelligence Department. Over the next four years he would witness the slaughter of thousands.
One particular moment that burned into his memory was an "awful Sunday night at Ypres, (Belgium, in 1916)" he later recalled. The Army chaplains organized a service in the wreckage of the cathedral, with over 22,000 soldiers gathering in prayer.
"Suddenly, shelling began. It was horrible. Gunfire of every sort was trained on the cathedral. Bombs were dropped onto it. Thousands were trapped there, and thousands more were killed as they dispersed; 11,700 were killed, and 3,000 wounded."
Ellis moved behind enemy lines, living in the catacombs of a cathedral while dispatching intelligence reports to contacts in the Belgian army. On one of his missions he was captured and imprisoned at St. Albert, France. After 14 weeks, a night of heavy fog presented Ellis the opportunity to escape. But before returning to British lines he delivered his message to the Belgian forces.
In honor of his dedication, Ellis was awarded the "Decoration Militaire Belgique" for gallantry by King Albert of Belgium.
In 1916, the Austro-Hungarian Empire finally crushed the Serbian forces, and the collapse of other allies in the Balkans was imminent. With the help of Ellis and other allied intelligence units, King Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro was clandestinely transported through enemy lines in Italy and brought to Bordeaux, where he awarded Ellis with Montenegrin Silver Medal for Bravery.
In 1918, Ellis was wounded in battle and while recovering was reunited with King George V. Ellis then served as the King's bodyguard while he toured the front. Constant shelling throughout the nights often kept the King awake, and Ellis kept the King company by recounting his escapades.
In return, King George knighted Ellis as a member of the Royal Victorian Order.
As the United States Expeditionary Forces continued to grow in numbers along the western front, Ellis was assigned to serve as the chauffeur and translator for General John J. Pershing for the remainder of the war.
In addition to the Decoration Militaire Belgique, Montenegrin Silver, and Royal Victorian Order, Ellis was also awarded the Allied Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
Despite these, his favorite continued to be a German award: one he stripped from an officer of the Imperial Germany Navy that he had captured. The officer had served on U-20, the submarine that sank the RMS Lusitania in 1915, and had been awarded a special medal commissioned to celebrate the sinking of the ship filled with contraband.
When the medal fell into the hands of Ellis and other intelligence forces, British and American organizations duplicated it and sold copies to the public to show the barbarity of Germany and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the war effort.
His time with the American Expeditionary Force must have left a favorable impression on Ellis, as after the war he moved to the United States and returned to his art background by accepting an engineering position with a firm in Niles, Ohio. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1940, and in 1951 accepted a position with the Flxible Company in Loudonville. He died in 1967 and is buried in Akron.
More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.