b. 24/12/1880 Barnet, London. d. 08/07/1962 South Petherton, Somerset.
Edward Noel Mellish (1880-1962) was born at Oakleigh Park, Friern Barnet, Hertfordshire on Christmas Eve 1880. His second name, Noel, was because he was born on Christmas Eve. His father was Edward Mellish, a banker and businessman. His first marriage was to Ellen Borrowes, an Irishwoman, in 1855 in Australia. His second marriage was to Sarah Waterworth in 1863 in Hong Kong, a former missionary with the Church Missionary Society. She died in 1875 at Honiton, Devon. His third marriage was to Edward’s mother, Mary “Minnie” nee Coppin on 28th August 1878 in London. Edward had fourteen siblings across his father’s three marriages.
Edward was educated at King Edward VII Grammar School, Saffron Waldon, Essex from 1893-1895 and was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade. He was employed as a clerk in his father’s business, but had an argument with his father’s partner, who refused to release him early one Saturday to attend an important long-range shoot at Runnymede. He resigned and worked as a junior clerk in the Big Tree Wine Company, Waterloo Bridge, London.
He enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1899. He embarked on SS Idaho on 15th December 1900, landing at Cape Town on 9th January 1901. He enlisted in Baden Powell’s Police at Bloemfontein. The unit was renamed the South African Constabulary from 20th July 1902 and he was promoted to Trooper 2nd Class. While trapped in a farmhouse, he rode out through the Boers to seek help. He was recommended for, but did not receive, the DCM for this action. At one time he was very ill with jaundice, dysentery and enteric fever and almost died.
When he was discharged from No 9 General Hospital in Bloemfontein, he chose to rejoin his Troop rather than transfer to a unit under his mother’s cousin, Major Hicks. He re-engaged for two years in February 1903 and was granted three months leave in England.
After the War, he worked on the South African Railways before working at De Beers Diamond Mine at Jagersfontein as a supervisor for seven years. He was also involved in lay mission work and believed he should enter the church. He was licensed as a lay reader by the Bishop of Bloemfontein in March 1907 and passed the Central Entrance Examination in 1909, resigned his job in 1910 and returned to England to enrol at King’s College, London, where he studied Theology. He became an Associate in 1912, gained a 1st Class Pass and was ordained deacon at Southwark Cathedral on 29th September 1912. He was appointed Curate of St Paul’s Deptford, where he was a Captain of the Church Lads’ Brigade and was ordained a priest in December 1913.
On the outbreak of war, he volunteered to serve as a chaplain, but the Bishop of London initially refused to release him. He later relented and he went to France on 4th May 1915, being commissioned Chaplain 4th Class the same day. He served at 27th/28th Infantry Base Depot in Rouen, then with 142nd Field Ambulance in 3rd Division and then 4th Royal Fusiliers in September.
On three consecutive days, the 27th to 29th March 1916, during the heavy fighting at St. Eloi, Belgium, he went to-and fro continuously between the original trenches and the captured enemy trenches, attending to and rescuing wounded men. The first day, from an area swept by machine-gun fire, he rescued 10 severely wounded men. Although his battalion was relieved on the second day, he returned and rescued 12 more of the wounded. Taking charge of a group of volunteers, on the third day, he again returned to the trenches in order to rescue the remaining wounded. This excellent work was done voluntarily and was far outside the sphere of his normal duties.
Billy Congreve (later awarded the VC) was awarded the DSO for his part in the action at St Eloi. The VC ribbon was presented to Edward by Major General Haldane outside Fletre Church, near Bailleul on 24th April 1916, and he was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 12th June 1916. He was also made an Honorary Fellow of King’s College London.
He was evacuated to the Clearing Station at Daours and then the No 2 Red Cross Hospital at Rouen on 10th August, probably with trench fever, before being moved to England. While on sick leave, he fell, fractured his skull and was unconscious for two weeks. He returned to France on 4th December to serve with XIII Corps Heavy Artillery. He suffered attacks of aphasia (loss of speech and understanding) from January 1917, caused by his fall. He was admitted to hospital in June and declared unfit for active service. He did return to France rejoining the 4th Royal Fusiliers.
He was awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry during the last two months of the war, and received the medal from King George V on 25th June 1920. He had married Elizabeth Wallace nee Molesworth at St Pauls Deptford on 3rd December 1918. They went on to have five children. From 1919 to 1925, Edward was Vicar of St Mark’s, Lewisham, before becoming Vicar of Wangford-cum-Henham and Reydon, Suffolk. From June 1928, he became Vicar of Great Dunmow in Essex.
On 2nd May 1936, during a breakin at his vicarage in Great Dunmow, thieves stole his VC and MC. Edward made an appeal in The Times for their return, and on 21st May, he discovered the medals in an envelope under some papers on his desk. In October 1938, he volunteered to serve as a British Legion policeman in the Sudetenland. During World War Two, he served as an ARP Warden and ran a forces canteen in a vacant public house on Dunmow High Street.
From 1946-1947, he was Deputy Lieutenant of Essex, before an appointment of Perpetual Curate of Baltonsborough, Somerset from 1948 to his retirement in 1953 to a farmhouse near Castle Cary, Somerset. Edward then moved to “Court House”, South Petherton in 1959, and lived there for the last three years of his life. He died at home on 8th July 1962 and was cremated at Weymouth Crematorium and his ashes were scattered in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin at Dunmow, Essex.
In addition to his VC and MC, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps “Cape Colony” and “Orange Free State”, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His VC and other medals were presented to the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London in 1966.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL FUSILIERS MUSEUM, TOWER OF LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: WEYMOUTH CREMATORIUM, WEYMOUTH, DORSET.
(ASHES SCATTERED AT ST MARY THE VIRGIN CHURCHYARD, GREAT DUNMOW, ESSEX)
Derek Walker – Image of Mellish’s name on the Lewisham Shopping Centre Memorial.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Mellish VC Medal Group at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London.
Paul Deeprose – Image of the Mellish VC Medal.