Book of First World War heroes goes on display in York Minster

Book of heroes goes on display in York Minster

Collections Manager of York Minster, Vicky Harrison, pictured with the Kings Book of York Heroes.

George Edwin Ellison’s entry in the King’s Book of York Heroes. He died shortly before the ceasefire.

First published in News
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Britain’s biggest book of Great War remembrance has gone on show at York Minster – telling the story of the local man who was last British soldier to die at the front.

Although the Armistice was signed at 5am on November 11 1918, the ceasefire was delayed until 11am to give the news time to reach the trenches.

Thousands more would die over the next six hours, knowing that the fighting was supposed to be over.

George Edwin Ellison, 40, who was born in Skeldergate, York, survived four years of hell, including The Somme, without a scratch.

With little more than an hour to go before the guns were silenced, he was sent to check out reports of enemy movements around Mons.

A shot rang out and Mr Ellison, a British Army regular who may have served in the Boer War, became the last British soldier to die in action.

Instead of coming home for his son James’s fifth birthday, widow Hannah received a telegram at their home in Leeds.

Although Mr Ellison was the last killed in action, York recruits continued to perish from their wounds and the effects of gas into the 1920s.

Shaken by the toll, York Minster considered putting up a stone memorial but instead opted for a massive book listing the 1,445 men who died - and two women.

Bound in steel and oak, it runs to 91 pages, and weighs nine stone and 4lbs. Signed by George V, it became known as the King’s Book of York Heroes.

The York Press researched the stories of the fallen and – unusually for a book of remembrance – there are pictures of all but five of the entries.

The volume has gone on display in York Minster’s Treasury as the centrepiece to ‘They died that we might live’ - which tell the stories of those involved in the conflict.

Collections Manager Vicky Harrison said: “We hope the display will encourage visitors to learn about the story of York Minster and the First World War, which is one of courage, sacrifice and remembrance.”

Comments (4)

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12:49pm Sat 10 May 14

haxbypete says...

There seems to be some ongoing confusion between the Minster and the Press as to exactly who commissioned the Kings Book of Heroes. The danger is that these errors of fact may become the basis of historic reference for the future, and that would be dangerous if not corrected now !

In the article here the Press says that the Book was commissioned by York Minster (instead of a stone monument to the fallen of York) - it wasn't !

In an article a few weeks ago the Press said then that the Kings Book had been commissioned by the York City Council following the ending of World War I - but it wasn't !

Fact is that the City Council of the day were SO tardy in deciding exactly what form a memorial to our brave lads and lasses would take, that some concerned, leading citizens of York decided to take action themselves !

The then Editor of the Yorkshire Herald, David L. Presley, set the wheels in motion for a book of remembrance. It was designed and illuminated inside by Edwin Ridsdale Tate, the York architect and artist, and was lovingly crafted and created by many York craftsmen.

The story was told in a special feature of the Press a few months back - but unfortunately with the wrong information regarding it's commissioning..

So the Kings Book was really conceived, designed and created by the people of York themselves - not the Council nor the Minster. It is a gigantic volume, very moving in it's contents, which I have been privileged to see and examine several times.

In 1922 the book was received by King George V at Buckingham Palace who asked that the Minster at York should keep it in safety in perpetuity on behalf of the people of York.

I look forward to seeing it now openly displayed in the Minster Treasury !
There seems to be some ongoing confusion between the Minster and the Press as to exactly who commissioned the Kings Book of Heroes. The danger is that these errors of fact may become the basis of historic reference for the future, and that would be dangerous if not corrected now ! In the article here the Press says that the Book was commissioned by York Minster (instead of a stone monument to the fallen of York) - it wasn't ! In an article a few weeks ago the Press said then that the Kings Book had been commissioned by the York City Council following the ending of World War I - but it wasn't ! Fact is that the City Council of the day were SO tardy in deciding exactly what form a memorial to our brave lads and lasses would take, that some concerned, leading citizens of York decided to take action themselves ! The then Editor of the Yorkshire Herald, David L. Presley, set the wheels in motion for a book of remembrance. It was designed and illuminated inside by Edwin Ridsdale Tate, the York architect and artist, and was lovingly crafted and created by many York craftsmen. The story was told in a special feature of the Press a few months back - but unfortunately with the wrong information regarding it's commissioning.. So the Kings Book was really conceived, designed and created by the people of York themselves - not the Council nor the Minster. It is a gigantic volume, very moving in it's contents, which I have been privileged to see and examine several times. In 1922 the book was received by King George V at Buckingham Palace who asked that the Minster at York should keep it in safety in perpetuity on behalf of the people of York. I look forward to seeing it now openly displayed in the Minster Treasury ! haxbypete
  • Score: 7

8:13pm Sun 11 May 14

SR0843 says...

Yes, this book belongs to the people of the City of York, not to the Minster; for many years it was kept in St Martin Coney Street and has only more recently been kept in the Minster.
The Minster has turned this book into a cash cow, with copies of the pages available at £17.50 each; that is, the version used for photocopies is a facsimilie of the original (which is currently in the Treasury). The facsimilie is kept in the Minster Library (in Dean's Park and run by the University of York). So people are being charged for a photocopy of a copy of the King's Book, when it belongs to the people of the City not to the Minster. The Minster should not be taking an income from something that is not theirs in the first place.
Yes, this book belongs to the people of the City of York, not to the Minster; for many years it was kept in St Martin Coney Street and has only more recently been kept in the Minster. The Minster has turned this book into a cash cow, with copies of the pages available at £17.50 each; that is, the version used for photocopies is a facsimilie of the original (which is currently in the Treasury). The facsimilie is kept in the Minster Library (in Dean's Park and run by the University of York). So people are being charged for a photocopy of a copy of the King's Book, when it belongs to the people of the City not to the Minster. The Minster should not be taking an income from something that is not theirs in the first place. SR0843
  • Score: 0

10:22am Tue 13 May 14

Haywire says...

SR0843 wrote:
Yes, this book belongs to the people of the City of York, not to the Minster; for many years it was kept in St Martin Coney Street and has only more recently been kept in the Minster.
The Minster has turned this book into a cash cow, with copies of the pages available at £17.50 each; that is, the version used for photocopies is a facsimilie of the original (which is currently in the Treasury). The facsimilie is kept in the Minster Library (in Dean's Park and run by the University of York). So people are being charged for a photocopy of a copy of the King's Book, when it belongs to the people of the City not to the Minster. The Minster should not be taking an income from something that is not theirs in the first place.
SR: i suggest that you check your facts before commenting. The King's Book was to be kept in Perpetuity in the Minster, and should never have gone to St. Martin's for the twenty or so years it was there. I shall not comment on the price of photos, but the images sold are certainly not copies of photocopies as you suggest.
[quote][p][bold]SR0843[/bold] wrote: Yes, this book belongs to the people of the City of York, not to the Minster; for many years it was kept in St Martin Coney Street and has only more recently been kept in the Minster. The Minster has turned this book into a cash cow, with copies of the pages available at £17.50 each; that is, the version used for photocopies is a facsimilie of the original (which is currently in the Treasury). The facsimilie is kept in the Minster Library (in Dean's Park and run by the University of York). So people are being charged for a photocopy of a copy of the King's Book, when it belongs to the people of the City not to the Minster. The Minster should not be taking an income from something that is not theirs in the first place.[/p][/quote]SR: i suggest that you check your facts before commenting. The King's Book was to be kept in Perpetuity in the Minster, and should never have gone to St. Martin's for the twenty or so years it was there. I shall not comment on the price of photos, but the images sold are certainly not copies of photocopies as you suggest. Haywire
  • Score: 0

5:44pm Tue 13 May 14

cann@btinternet.com says...

jimbob . I don't know how much research the press did regarding the article on the Kings book but it was my efforts and research on Pte. Ellison that made it possible for him to be included . I know other people over the years have tried to have someone included and it is only now with all the interest in WW 1 that some others have now been included . Also in the past I have tried to gain access to the book and it was like asking to see the crown jewels , yes big brother basically showed me the door . I did say it belonged to the people of York but this fell on deaf ears , my how things change .
jimbob . I don't know how much research the press did regarding the article on the Kings book but it was my efforts and research on Pte. Ellison that made it possible for him to be included . I know other people over the years have tried to have someone included and it is only now with all the interest in WW 1 that some others have now been included . Also in the past I have tried to gain access to the book and it was like asking to see the crown jewels , yes big brother basically showed me the door . I did say it belonged to the people of York but this fell on deaf ears , my how things change . cann@btinternet.com
  • Score: 0

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