Encyclopedia Titanica

John Bertie Ellis

Mr John Bertie Ellis was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 8 August 1883.

He was the son of John Ellis (1851-1908), a naval seaman, and Emma Wavish (1856-1927). His father hailed from Manchester whilst his mother was a native of Torpoint, Cornwall. Following a spell in Devon they appear to have moved to Southampton around 1882.

John had eight known siblings: Florence (b. 1880), William Henry (1882-1937), Ada Louise (b. 1885), Philippa Victoria (b. 1887), Harry Edward (b. 1890), Emma Elizabeth (b. 1892), May Beatrice (b. 1894) and Mary Agatha (b. 1897).

The 1891 census shows John and his family living at 5 Castle Gardens, All Saints, Southampton. By the time of the 1901 census John was still living at home, then at 197 Northam Road, Southampton, and he was described as an unmarried cellarman.

John was married in Southampton in 1905 to Ethel Amelia Brooks (b. 1887), also a native of that city. She was the daughter of Addison Taylor Brooks (b. 1849) and the former Eliza Rebecca Russell (b. 1858). Her father, who was of mixed African-American and European heritage, was born in Washington, DC and in his younger years saw service in the US Military before settling in Britain.

By early 1912 John and Ethel had three children: Mabel Ethel (b. 2 July 1906), Bertie Alec William Addison (1908-1945) and Frank (b. 28 December 1909). The family appear on the 1911 census living at 40 Dukes Road, Southampton and John is described as a vegetable cook for the White Star Line. 

When he signed on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912, John gave his address as 30 Dukes Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Oceanic and as an assistant vegetable cook he could expect to earn monthly wages of £5.

John Ellis survived the sinking (in which boat is uncertain, though possibly lifeboat 2). Surviving steward James Johnstone recalled his presence in the boat in his evidence into the sinking given to the British Inquiry. Ellis himself was not required to give evidence to either the American or British Inquiries into the sinking but did receive expenses of £9, 9s for his detention with regards to the latter. 

John returned to Southampton and continued his career at sea for a short while. On 14 October 1912 his wife Ethel gave birth to another child, Archie John Edmund (1912-1964).

According to family, only a few months after the Titanic disaster John Ellis "jumped ship" Stateside and was never heard of again by his family in England, their lives going on without him.

His wife Ethel remained in Hampshire and died in 1931, seemingly never having heard from John again. 

His daughter Mabel also became a cook and in the 1930s lived in London and Paris respectively, by 1939 she was listed as an unmarried live-in domestic to a sales executive in Enfield, Middlesex. Around this time she got engaged to a French national, who was killed early in WW2 and later moved to Ireland, where she remained until her death. 

His son Bertie later married Annie Maria Corbishley (b. 1909) and settled in Staffordshire where he raised a family. He served as a Royal Artillery gunner during WWII and was killed whilst serving in Burma 2 March 1945; he is buried there in Tuakkyan War Cemetery. 

Son Frank later moved to Biloela, Queensland, Australia where he is believed to have died on 30 May 1991.

John's son Archie also served in the Merchant Marine (and the Royal Navy Reserve), he as a quartermaster. He was married to Robina Stewart and raised a family before his death in Staffordshire in 1964.

Whilst the lives of his impoverished family back in England moved on, Ellis had moved to New South Wales, Australia where he bigamously remarried and raised another family. He began a relationship with Isabella Towers, née Garbutt, and the pair were wed in 1914 and went on to welcome two sons, John Bert (b. 1914) and William (b. circa 1920). The family made their home in the suburbs of Sydney. 

In November 1916 Ellis enlisted for the war effort, serving with the Australian 19th Infantry Battalion, his address at the time being given as 17 Cowles Road, Mosman, Sydney. Following that he lived at 21 Romani Parade, Matraville, Sydney by the time of the 1931 electoral roll and was described as a war pensioner. 

John Bertie Ellis died at his home on 26 July 1932 aged 48 and he is buried in the Randwick Cemetery (grave 50, section C) in South Coogee, Sydney.

ELLIS - July 26, 1932, at his residence, 21 Romani-parade, Matraville, John Bertie Ellis, age 46 years, beloved husband of Isobel, and father of Willie and Bertie.  - The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July 1932

John Bertie Ellis Grave
Gravestone of John Bertie Ellis at Randwick Cemetery



1. He was presumably senior to Ayling, Buckley and Orr whose wages were £4 10s.

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259


Craig Stringer (2003) Titanic People (CDROM)
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Comment and discuss

  1. Geoff Ellis

    John Bert(ram) Ellis, Assistant vegetable cook aged 30. Gave address as 30 Dukes Road, Southampton, was rescued, possibly in lifeboat 2. What happened to him after his rescue? Did he return to England? Can anyone help me in finding any information about him. He was my grandfather Thanks Geoff Ellis

  2. Peter Engberg-Klarström

    Dear Geoff, just for the record: it is not certain whether Mr Ellis left the Titanic in boat No 2. I have never come across an interview with him; there was a cook (or a person from the kitchen anyway) in boat 2, there was one in boat 8 and there were apparently several in boat 13. I have as yet not discovered anything about him after he signed off after the disaster I am afraid. Peter

  3. Brittanic

    The information you have regarding John Bertie’s daughter Mabel is incorrect. She lived in at various times in London and in Paris and it is thought she worked at the Irish Legation. She became engaged to a Frenchman before the start of WW2 he was presumed killed during the war as she never married. She moved to Dublin and died there around the 1970’s or 80’s.

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr John Bertie Ellis
Age: 28 years 8 months and 7 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Ethel Amelia Brooks
Last Residence: at 30 Dukes Road Southampton, Hampshire, England
Last Ship: Oceanic
Embarked: Southampton on Thursday 4th April 1912
Rescued (boat 2)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Buried: Randwick Cemetery, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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