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Charles Edward Ellis

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Sir Charles Edward Ellis (1852-1937), director of John Brown and Co

1937 Obituary [1]

ON Friday, February 19th, Sir Charles Edward Ellis, G.B.E., K.C.B., died at his home, Rotherfield Hall, Jarvis Brook, Sussex, at the age of eighty-four.

He was the second son of the late Mr. John Devonshire Ellis, a director of John Brown and Co., and was born in Birmingham in 1852.

He received his education at Lancing College and at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1878 he was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple, and practised for a short time on the North-Eastern Circuit. He was the joint author of works on election law and on railway rates and traffic. Shortly afterwards he joined his father on the board of John Brown and Co., and from the first displayed a sound business ability. which enabled him to take an important part in the developments then going on in the Sheffield businesses of John Brown's and Firth's. In 1890 he became the managing director of John Brown and Co., of Sheffield, and of Clydebank, Glasgow. Although Charles Ellis never figured so prominently in the life of Sheffield, as did his brother William, he did by his close association with the two firms of John Brown and Co. and Thos . Firth and Sons play for many years an important part in the industrial life of that city.

It was in the first year of the war that Mr. Lloyd George, who was then Minister of Munitions, invited Mr. Charles Ellis, who had an intimate knowledge of the munitions and armament industry, to serve on the central committee, then being formed by the Ministry to speed up and to increase the supply of armaments for the country. At that time the supply of the necessary munitions for the British Army had begun to assume a serious aspect, and the choice of Mr. Charles Ellis to take an important part in the task at hand was clearly recognised as a sign that the Government appreciated to the full the gravity of the situation and was determined to get into closest touch with the industry. In July, 1915, he resigned temporarily his directorships of John Brown and Co., Thos. Firth and Sons, and the Coventry Ordnance Works, and placed the whole of his services at the disposal of the Council of the Ministry of Munitions. Later he became the Director-General of Ordnance Supply. His services to the nation were recognised in 1917, when he was created a K.C.B. A considerable part of the war period Sir Charles spent in France and in Italy as the representative of the Ministry of Munitions. He also served as representative of the Ministry in Paris in connection with the liquidation of the Continental munitions contracts. Shortly after the Armistice he was awarded the distinction of Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire. His services to other nations wore rewarded by decorations conferred upon him by the Belgian, French, Italian, Russian, and Turkish Governments.

At the end of war Sir Charles resumed his position with John Brown and Co. and its associated firms, and also served as a director of the Great Eastern Railway Company. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors until 1922. For many years he was a valued member of the Institution of Naval Architects, and he served the Institution both as an Honorary Vice-President and Treasurer.

In 1928, on account of his advancing years, he decided to resign his position as senior managing director of John Brown and Co., but he continued to serve on the board of the comp any, and was appointed to give special oversight to the shipyard and engine works at Clydebank. Besides remaining a director of John Brown and Co., he was also a director of Thos. Firth and John Brown, Ltd., the Power and Traction Finance Company, Ltd., and several colliery undertakings.

The death of Sir Charles will be mourned by all those who wore happy enough to know him. In all his dealings with his fellow-men he showed a rare courtesy and his kindly smile put even strangers at ease with him in a moment. Although not strictly an engineer nor a technical ironmaster, he had for so long worked in their field that they regarded him as one of themselves. His active days were over, but the memory of them will remain with all those who knew him in the board room and at the council table, and they will recall a presence which gave a human touch to the business of industry.

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