The following biographies were written by Carol Hunter.
Sellars from Liverpool to Hoylake
Eric and Herbert were born in Liverpool and appear to have been the only children of Frank Jonathan Campbell Whiteley Sellars and Elizabeth Whiteley, who were first cousins. Their father Frank was born in 1859 in Greasbrough, Yorkshire and was the only child of Benjamin Sellars (mineral surveyor and later a colliery proprietor) and Elizabeth Whiteley b1821. Their mother Elizabeth was born in 1857 in Liverpool, one of 5 children of William Whiteley b1825 (grocer) and Ellen Peddar Baylis.
Frank and Elizabeth married in 1882 at St Paul’s in Toxteth Park and 1891 we find them living in Vicarage Road in Liscard. Frank was working as a mining surveyor and Elizabeth’s parents were visiting, from their home in Toxteth Park. In 1901 Frank and Elizabeth were living at 7 Sunnyside, Toxteth Park with their two young sons Eric and Herbert. Frank was working as a mining engineer and was clearly doing quite well for himself as the family employed a governess, a housemaid and a cook. Sadly, on 13th May 1903, whilst the family was still living in Sunnyside, Elizabeth died at the Royal Hotel in San Remo, Italy, perhaps during a family holiday. She left £26,514 4s, a large sum which equates to approximately £1.5 million today. After Elizabeth’s death Frank decided to move over the water perhaps for the cleaner air and on 29th April 1905 he married Madeline Charlotte Shannon at St Bridget’s in West Kirby. In 1911 we find Frank and Madeline living in Wentworth, a fourteen-roomed house situated on Meols Drive, Hoylake with their four year-old daughter Elizabeth. Frank was described as living on private means and was wealthy enough to employ a governess, a cook, a waitress and a housemaid. Eric and Herbert were not listed because they were boarding at the Loretto School in Edinburgh.
Frank died on 7th January 1932 at the Park Lane Hotel, Picadilly. He left £263,556 1s 1d, a substantial amount now but when converted is worth approximately £8.8 million. His widow Madeline died on 26 November 1938 at the Hotel Metropole, Brighton; money was left to her daughter Elizabeth, who had married Herbert Roy Rowlands in 1936 in Ledbury, Herefordshire.
Eric Francis Sellars
We know from the school’s Roll of Honour that Eric:
“was at Loretto from 1907 to 1913. After leaving school he went up to Caius Coll., Cambridge. In January 1915 he was gazetted to the 12th Cheshire Regiment, and accompanied it to France, and afterwards to Salonika. He won the Military Cross for “most conspicuous gallantry” in a raid carried out on the night of September 28-29, 1916, and was mentioned in despatches. Captain Sellars was reported “missing” after the advance on “P Ridge”, Salonika, on September 18, 1918, and later was reported killed on that date.”
We also learn from Wisden that he was a keen cricketer and had been a member of the Loretto XI of 1912.
The “Birkenhead News” of 11th August 1918 reported that Eric had been awrded the Military Cross and quoted a soldier as saying that it had been very well deserved. Eric was serving in the Balkans at that time.
In early September 1918 the British attacked a series of fortified hills in Salonika and were engaged in the Lake Doiran area in the Second Battle of Doiran. This battle lasted just 2 days, from 18th to 19th September and was a disaster for the British Divisions. Led by the They had to frontally assault ‘Pip Ridge’ which was a 2000 foot high heavily defended mountain ridge with fortresses built on some of the higher mountains, notably Grand Couronne. They sustained very heavy casualties. The following extract, written by member of the 28th Division shows the full horrors of what Eric went through during what the author calls the Futile Massacre at Doiran:
“Our attack on ‘ Pip Ridge’ was led by 12th Cheshires. The battle opened with a crash of machine-gun fire, and a cloud of dusty smoke began to blur the outline of the hills, Almost immediately the advancing battalion was overwhelmed in a deadly steam of bullets which came whipping and whistling down the open slopes. Those who survived were followed by a battalion of Lancashire men, and a remnant of this undaunted infantry fought its way over the first and second lines of trenches – if indeed the term ” line ” can be applied to a highly complicated and irregular system of defence, taking full advantage of every fold or contortion of the ground. In its turn, a Shropshire battalion ascended the fatal ridge. By this time the battle of the ” Pips” was a mere confusion of massacre, noise and futile bravery. Nearly all the men of the first two battalions were lying dead or wounded on the hillside. Colonel Clegg and Colonel Bishop were killed; the few surviving troops were toiling and fighting in what appeared to be inevitable and immediate death. The attack was ending in a bloody disaster. No orders could reach the isolated cluster of men who were still trying to advance on the ridge. Contact aeroplanes came roaring down through the yellow haze of dust and smoke, hardly able to see what was going on, and even flying below the levels of the Ridge and Grand Couronne. There was only one possible ending to the assault. Our troops in the military phrase of their commander, ” fell back to their original positions” Of this falling back I will say nothing. There are times when even desperate heroism has to acknowledge defeat.
Birth: October 1893
Death: 18th September 1918 aged 24
Addresses: 7 Sunnyside, Toxteth Park (01), Loretto School, Edinburgh (11)
Unit: Cheshire Regiment 12th Bn
Number(s) and Rank: Captain
Medals: 15 Star, Victory, British War, MC
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Greece: DOIRAN MEMORIAL
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, BN, Census: 61, 71, 81, 91, 01, 11, Online BMD records on Ancestry and Familysearch, Online Parish registers, Lerettonian Society, http://www.1914-1918.net/salonika.htm; Eric’s service records exist at the National Archives, reference WO 339/5488, but have not yet been consulted; once they have been, this post will be augmented.
Herbert Whiteley Sellars
Again, from the Loretto Roll of Honour we learn that Herbert:
“was at Loretto from 1910 to 1915. Corporal, O.T.C. After leaving school, instead of going up to Caius College, Cambridge, as he had intended, he applied for a commission, and was gazetted to the Air Force in June 1916. Lieut. Sellars was awarded the Military Cross for “marked skill and gallantry” on an occasion when he engaged five enemy machines, shooting down two, and forcing a third to descend disabled. He was reported “missing” on May 15, 1918, and a later casualty list showed him as “killed in action” on that date.”
Herbert received the Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate 2852 on a Caudron biplane at Beatty School, Hendon on 10 May 1916 and joined the Royal Flying Corps in June 1916.
Thanks to various online blogs we learn that Herbert was a celebrated flying ace. He scored 8 victories with his observer Lieutenant Charles Crichton Robson in F 2B C4673, a Bristol Fighter, including downing 16-victory ace Lieutenant Lugwig Hanstein. However the duo’s luck ran out during a dogfight with Jagdgeschwader I, when Herbert was killed and his observer taken prisoner.
Birth: 11th June 1896
Death: 15th May 1918 aged 21
Address(es): 7 Sunnyside, Toxteth Park (01), Loretto School, Edinburgh (11)
Unit(s): Royal Air Force, 11th Squadron
Number(s) and Rank: Lieutenant
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL, France
Sources: BR, CWGC, DA, Census: 61, 71, 81, 91, 01, 11, Online BMD records on Ancestry and Familysearch, Online Parish registers, Lerettonian Society; Herbert’s Service Records exist at the National Archives, reference WO 339/61978; they have not yet been consulted, but once they have been, this post can be augmented.