Eric Francis and Herbert Whiteley Sellars

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.

"Wentworth" Meols Drive, Hoylake

“Wentworth” Meols Drive, Hoylake

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

Eric Sellars

Eric 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.”

Cheshire Regiment Badge

Cheshire Regiment Badge

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.

Eric Sellars's Medal Card

Eric Sellars’s Medal Card

Notes
Birth: October 1893
Death: 18th September 1918 aged 24
Addresses: 7 Sunnyside, Toxteth Park (01), Loretto School, Edinburgh (11)
Occupation(s): ?
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

Herbert 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.

Royal Flying Corps Cap Badge

Royal Flying Corps Cap Badge

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.

Herbert's Certificate

Herbert’s Certificate

Herbert - the Youthful Pilot

Herbert – the Youthful Pilot

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.

"Deeside Advertiser" 12th July 1918: Account of Herbert's Death

“Deeside Advertiser” 12th July 1918: Account of Herbert’s Death

Birth: 11th June 1896
Death: 15th May 1918 aged 21
Address(es): 7 Sunnyside, Toxteth Park (01), Loretto School, Edinburgh (11)
Occupation(s): ?
Unit(s): Royal Air Force, 11th Squadron
Number(s) and Rank: Lieutenant
Medals: MC
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.

 

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5 thoughts on “Eric Francis and Herbert Whiteley Sellars

  1. Today is ANZAC Day, the 100th Anniversary, which made me turn back to the few family records I possess. My father Russell Whiteley, cousin of Eric and Herbert Sellars was in the assault on the Bulgars on Doiran Ridge by the 12th Cheshires. He was badly wounded but survived. The letters sent home by Eric and Herbert Sellars are in my possession; as are notes and maps of the area carried by my father. There is also about a year of The Balkan Times. I am happy to send this material to anyone who is interested.
    Your account of my cousins is excellent and I thank you for it. I also have a rather better photo of Eric Sellars if you would like it. Thank you.

    • Dear Dr Whiteley thank you very much indeed for this very generous and interesting response to Carol’s biographies of the Sellars brothers. I know she will be delighted to read your comments. When I started the blog, this is precisely the kind of interaction I was hoping to initiate. Yes indeed, we would both love to have sight of the resources to which you refer. I am sure they will help us to expand the biographies and further to understand the impact of the Great War on families in our area. Please contact me on: northwesthistory@btinternet.com
      Thank you once again for getting in touch on this very poignant day.

    • Dear Dr Whiteley
      I’m delighted and somewhat humbled with your response to my biographies. A fair few of the men remembered on the West Kirby memorial are related to me, but I’m also drawn to the other men especially siblings/cousins, which is what peaked my interest in your father’s cousins. It is so very important to remember these men and the sacrifices they made, and last month on the anniversary of his death we were able to have a memorial service for Eric Blackburn, who is buried in our local church; much of the information we hold on him is thanks to letters that he sent home to his family, that were thankfully saved from a skip after a house clearance. As my friend Stephen says we would be delighted to have copies of the letters home and other resources your refer to. Please feel free to contact me directly at carolahunter@hotmail.com
      Kind regards, Carol

    • Dear Jervis, I received the box containing the letters and the envelope containing the accounts of the Macedonian Campaign last week. Thank you very much indeed for these invaluable items, which I promise you will be very well used. They are fascinating and extremely informative for the Great War historian. They will be used in my PhD research as well as to expand the biographies of the two Sellars brothers. Thank you very much once again. Many good wishes from Stephen and the other researchers.

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