THE hunt is on for the family of a World War One soldier after a memorial to him was found in the ruins of a house more than 200 miles away from the Flintshire home he never returned to.

Andrew Oakes, a builder from Paignton in Devon, found Ellis Thomas Evans' 'death penny' in a tin whilst demolishing an outbuilding earlier this year.

Officially called 'The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque', 'death pennies', as they came to be known, were bronze plaques approximately 11cm or 4½ inches in diameter with the name of someone who died serving with the British and Empire forces in World War One.

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They was issued to the deceased's next of kin along with a scroll and were posted out to bereaved families in 1919 and 1920, with a ‘King’s message’ enclosed which contained a facsimile signature of King George V.

With nearly a million dead in the British Army alone, the plaques are today still commonly found, but mystery surrounds just how Ellis' ended up in a tin in Devon almost a century after his tragic death in France.

Following the discovery, Mr Oakes tried to find out more about Ellis, leading him to the Flintshire War Memorials website - an online memorial for those who died in World War One and are remembered on the war memorials across Flintshire.

"Mr Oakes has been to a massive amount of trouble to locate us," says Viv Williams, who began the Flintshire War Memorials project with her husband Eifion.

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"He traced Ellis Thomas Evans to the Flintshire War Memorials site and eventually posted the penny to Claire Harrington, Flintshire County Council's principle archivist, who is also on ourSteering Committee and she brought it to me.

"Our plan is to reunite it with the family, but failing that, Claire will store it in the collection at the County Record Office in Hawarden."

Thanks to Viv, and other contributors to the website, plenty is known about Ellis' life, raising hopes that some of his surviving relatives may still be living in Flintshire.

Ellis Thomas Evans was first recorded on the 1901 census where he was living with his family in Mostyn Road in Gronant, a small village about two miles east of Prestatyn. Head of the household was Thomas Evans 30, who lived with his wife, Ann, 30, and their son Ellis, who was just three years old.

By the census of 1911 things had changed significantly. Thomas, now 40, is recorded working as a collier and has a new wife of less than a year, Emily Evans.

She is 39-years-old and from Dolgellau, with the form showing that four children had been born in the meantime but two had died. Presumably Ann, Thomas' first wife, had also died and she had been the mother of the children.

The surviving children are given as Ellis T Evans, 13, who is at school and Elizabeth Jane Evans, aged 5. The family are recorded as living at Mount Pleasant in Berthengam, Holywell.

Military records show Ellis then joined up, aged 18, in Flint. He was living in the Gwaenysgor area, possibly in Plas Gwen as this is the address his father gave, both as next of kin, and on the Record of Service card now held in the Flintshire Record Office.

Plas Gwen was a cluster of small cottages situated at the end of Well Lane. Now no longer there, they were inhabited up to 1937.

Many of Ellis’s service records have survived and can be accessed. When he enlisted on Jan 14, 1915, he joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Reserve).

He served three years in all, the last 18 months overseas with the British Expeditionary Force in France. The Record of Service card gives his rank as Lance Corporal and is listed as such in the Register of Soldier’s Effects.

With the war nearing its end, the records show that on October 15,1918, Ellis was promoted and ‘appointed unpaid lance cpl’ in the field. Sadly just a few weeks later, on November 6, he lost his life on the battlefield in Flanders. As his index card poignantly records , it was ‘4 days before the armistice’.

Following his death, Ellis' possessions were returned and were listed as "1 disc, 1 religious book, packet, wallet and photos" with instructions they were to be divided between the two legatees; sister Elizabeth and her Aunt Sarah (Ellis). At this time (1920), 15-year-old Elizabeth was living in Prestatyn with Sarah. The Army Register of deceased soldier’s effects where they calculated monies owed, also lists as Ellis Evans’s legatees his sister Elizabeth and his Aunt Sarah.

Today Ellis is commemorated on both the Gronant and Gwaenysgor War Memorials but as Viv points out it would be fitting if any surviving members of his family could be reunited with Ellis' memorial.

"We have reunited death pennies with two families in the past," adds Viv. "In 2014, after some publicity on the website and the local newspaper, a relative of Connah's Quay soldier Herbert Foulkes was found and we were able to hand over a plaque back into the safekeeping of his family.

"In 2012, George Ewart Bevan’s memorial plaque was rescued from a skip following a house clearance and we were also able to reunite it with his family in Buckley.

"It would be lovely to do the same for Ellis."

Are you related to Ellis Thomas Evans or think you may have a family connection? If you have, please get in touch with or call 01352 707781.