Norfolk fireman's top-secret mission

Michael Pollitt, obituaries editorGeorge Albert Ellis - Died January 19, aged 96 Thousands of 'Top Secret' war-time documents were pulped on official instructions by a part-time fireman in Thetford, Algy Ellis, who has died aged 96.Michael Pollitt, obituaries editor

George Albert Ellis - Died January 19, aged 96

Thousands of 'Top Secret' war-time documents were pulped on official instructions by a part-time fireman in Thetford, Algy Ellis, who has died aged 96.

He had been called to the War Office in early 1939 and told to sign the Official Secrets Act. Then, the maintenance engineer at Thetford Moulded Products and his managing director were given their instructions. Mr Ellis would be solely responsible for handling and destroying lorryloads of secret and confidential papers through the war years.


You may also want to watch:


Later, he was given the only key to the pulping machine, which had sealed by the Royal Engineers inside a specially-constructed steel chamber. Once pulped, the papers were treated with resin and made into disposable fuel tanks, which were later dumped over occupied Europe by RAF fighters and bombers.

When the siren sounded, he would leave his employer (now Centurion Martindale) and respond to the emergency. As maintenance engineer with development responsibilities for about 30 years, he designed a new fire-fighting helmet to be used in Peru.

Most Read

These helmets, used in fighting aircraft fires, included a Perspex visor and a rear metallic protective cloth. He retired after 40 years with the firm in 1978 but onoly told his only son, David, of his war-time role about five years ago.

George Albert Ellis, who was always known as 'Algy,' was born in Thetford. He went to the town's grammar school and won prizes in metal and wood work.

He was one of the last of the retained fire-fighters to have started in the pre-war Auxiliary Fire Service as a patrol leader at Thetford on October 1, 1938.

He became leading fireman on August 1, 1939 and served in the National Fire Service, which was created on October 2, 1941. He was promoted sub-officer at Thetford on April 1, 1953 and became station officer nine years later.

He was presented with the Fire Brigade Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1959.

When he stood down after 30 years in June 1968, chief fire officer, Robert Pearson, of Norfolk County Fire Service, thanked him for 'a long and meritorious record of service to the public.'

A Thetford man to his core and his family had links with the town since 1700, he moved away for just a year. He worked for a company at Dunstable, Bedfordshire, where he made a replica of Wright Brothers' first aircraft for a film company.

He leaves a daughter, Anita, who lives in Australia, and son, David, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He is survived by a sister, Ethel, who lives in South Africa.

A funeral service will be held at St Cuthbert's Church, Thetford, followed by burial at the town's cemetery on Wednesday, February 17, 11.30am.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter