Tributes paid to Wrexham's 'remarkable heroine'

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

TRIBUTES have been paid to a “remarkable heroine” who has died at the age of 93.

Margaret Ellis was dubbed Sister Spitfire when she served as a nurse in the Second World War.

She died at Wrexham Maelor Hospital after a short illness and the funeral service was held at St Margaret’s Church in Chester Road, followed by cremation at Pentrebychan Crematorium.

Last year she helped a campaign to send morale-boosting “gifts from home” to soldiers on the frontline in Afghanistan organised at the Pendine Park care organisation where she was a resident.

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft described her as “a very special person with special qualities”.

He added: “The courage she displayed during the Second World War is incredible and she was an example to us all. As a country, we owed her a great debt of gratitude.”

Mrs Ellis needed every ounce of her indomitable spirit to cope with the carnage of Northern France in 1939.

But amid the horror of a military field hospital a few miles south of Dieppe, she also found love because she met and later married her husband, Geoffrey.

The bitter sweet memories were still vivid for Mrs Ellis when she spoke about her experiences for the first time last year

She was proud of the medals she was awarded for her unstinting and brave service – and also of being nicknamed Sister Spitfire by a group of German prisoners of war she looked after.

A native of Wrexham, Mrs Ellis, known as Peggy to her friends, had a difficult start in life.

She was brought up in an orphanage in Caego after her mother died when she was just five.

Mrs Ellis lived there until she was 17 when she followed her dream to become a nurse.

Interviewed last year, she recalled: “I was based in a field hospital with 1,200 beds and on night duty I had six tents with 20 beds in each tent. That took some coping with.

“We tended to the men and gave them the best care we could provide. We saw some terrible things.

“I’m not kidding, it was a nightmare. We were in fields and we had no meals – all we had was the fresh eggs laid by chickens in the field, and we would eat the raw eggs.

“As the Germans advanced, the 51st Highland Division fought a rearguard action.

“Without them we would never have got away because the Germans were quite near to us.”

The man who was to become her husband, Geoffrey Ellis, came to the field hospital as a patient, having suffered an injury during the fighting.

After being evacuated back to Britain, Mrs Ellis worked at a military hospital on the outskirts of London where German prisoners of war were also patients.

After the war, Mrs Ellis and her husband returned to the Wrexham area and lived in Gwersyllt where they raised two sons and a daughter.

Mrs Ellis worked in the War Memorial and Wrexham Maelor Hospitals until her retirement more than 30 years ago.

Cindy Clutton, manager of Gwern Alyn where Mrs Ellis was a resident, said it was an honour to look after a “latter-day Florence Nightingale”.

See full story in the Leader

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