RFA Sailors honour brave comrade in Gibraltar

Sailors from RFA Mounts Bay paid their respects to one of only two men from their service to receive the country’s highest civilian honour.

Back in 1951, Morris Richard Ellis was a 23-year-old able seaman serving aboard tanker RFA Wave Commander in Gibraltar.

When the bosun was overcome by fumes while cleaning one of the cargo tanks, Ellis went inside to rescue him.

He succeeded, but fell victim to the fumes himself, fell off a platform and died of his injuries.

Ellis was laid to rest in Gibraltar’s North Front Cemetery and posthumously awarded the Albert Medal for bravery at sea (it’s subsequently been subsumed by the George Cross).

His grave was refurbished about a decade ago by sailors from RFA Oakleaf and Fort Austin, while the RFA Historical Society traced some of Morris’ descendants to North Wales and Tasmania.

An occasion such as this provides a poignant reminder of the immense acts of bravery that have been undertaken by RFA seafarers over the years in times of peace as well as those perhaps more widely recognised during conflict.

Capt David Buck RFA

That led to an addition to the grave – a small marble stone with the Albert Medal carved in gold; the original inscription makes no reference to the sailor’s bravery.

With Mounts Bay visiting the Rock for five weeks of maintenance work and training, it allowed her crew to make sure the grave was in a fitting condition and to pay their respects, which 2/O(C) Colin Burgess, LH(C) Mark Richmond and LH(SA) Emma Bury duly did.

“An occasion such as this provides a poignant reminder of the immense acts of bravery that have been undertaken by RFA seafarers over the years in times of peace as well as those perhaps more widely recognised during conflict,” said Capt David Buck RFA, Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer.

“I am humbled that Mounts Bay has been provided with this opportunity to pay due respect to the bravery demonstrated by AB Morris-Ellis and to tend to his memorial in Gibraltar.”