Ellis Preece was born on 12 February 1896, the son of Maria and John Preece, a stationary engine driver of Macclesfield. In 1901, five-year-old Ellis was living at 73 Hobson St, Macclesfield with his parents and brother John, aged one; a sister, Ida, was born in 1908.
Ellis was educated at St George's School, Sutton, south Macclesfield, attaining Standard Grade VII, and in 1909 enrolled at Macclesfield Technical School to further his education.
The family later moved to 83 Hobson Street, Macclesfield.
Ellis Preece joined the local 7th Cheshire Regiment soon after the start of the war with service number 1574 (later renumbered 290165). After training he was promoted to sergeant and went with the battalion to Gallipoli, participating in the landing at Suvla Bay in August 1915. On 25 August 1915 Sgt Preece was admitted to hospital in Malta, suffering from dysentery. Sgt Preece afterwards served with the battalion in Egypt in 1916.
After officer training, Ellis was awarded a commission into the Highland Light Infantry on 17 May 1917; this was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 29 June 1917:
COMMISSION FOR A MACCLESFIELD TERRITORIAL - After nearly three years' war service with the Territorials, Sergeant Ellis Preece, of Hobson St, Macclesfield, has been granted a commission in the Highland Light Infantry, now serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Eighteen years of age when mobilised as a Corporal with the Macclesfield Territorials on the outbreak of war, the young officer was promoted to sergeant before going out with the Battalion to the Dardanelles. His commission has been awarded upon the result of an examination in which he gained 96 out of a possible 100 marks.
Second-Lieut Preece attended St George's Church and as a youth was actively connected with the Church Lads' Brigade. When called up for service he was learning the printing business with Messrs. Heath Bros., St George's Street Mill.
In a recent letter to his uncle, Mr Harry Heath, Second-Lieut Preece writes: "At present my battalion is just behind the line in support, though last night I was out with a hundred men, digging about 500 yards from Johnny Turk, and when the moon came up it was rather unhealthy. Still, while we are out of the line we are doing well. While I write this epistle it is Sunday afternoon and I have a faint remembrance of West Park, etc... Night-time is the most pleasant, when the flies have gone to roost and sand ants take a rest."
2nd Lt Preece continued to serve in Egypt until he was wounded in the shoulder in November 1917, when he was repatriated to the UK for treatment. After recovery he joined the RAF on 12 September 1918 as an Army Observer and was drafted to France.
On 2 October 1918 2nd Lt Preece was in a De Havilland DH4 (serial no A8090), piloted by 2nd Lt F H A Weale, on a bombing raid when the plane disappeared behind enemy lines. The RAF casualty card noted that the craft was "last seen going down in flames". Both Preece and Weale were assumed to have been killed and 2nd Lt Preece's death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 11 October 1918:
Mr and Mrs Preece, 83 Hobson Street, have been notified that their son, 2nd Lieut Ellis Preece, RAF, is reported missing since Oct 1. Sec Lieut Preece... was mobilised with the local Territorials, he then being in the ranks. He later obtained a commission in the Highland Light Infantry and was wounded about twelve months ago whilst serving in Egypt. The wound was of a rather serious nature, being through the juncture of the right shoulder and neck. He was invalided to England and made a splendid recovery. On rejoining his unit he became interested in flying and transferred to the RAF. He was over on leave a month ago and only went to France a week later. From a letter from another officer in the squadron it appears that Lieut Preece was in action over the German lines when the machine suddenly came down.
2nd Lieut Ellis Preece is buried at Marcoing British Cemetery, in grave ref. II. E. 20/21. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for 2nd Lieut Ellis Preece, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, 2nd Lieut Ellis Preece is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St George's Church war memorials.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
National School Admission Registers and Log-books (FindMyPast):St George's School, Macclesfield Technical School
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards (Ancestry)
WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920 (Find My Past)
WWI Casualty Lists (The Genealogist)
Royal Air Force, Officers' Service Records (Find My Past)
RAF Museum Storyvault (WWI Casualty Cards)
Lives of the First World War website
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 29 June 1917, 11 October 1918, 30 September 1921 (photo)
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.