Elliott Family History, Ancestral Trees, Biographies, Photographs and Records.
John James Elliott (1927-2009)
May 1927 in Poplar
Arthur James Elliott
Dorothy Caroline Dore
Ada R E Cole in 1952
Arthur Edward 1921-2000
Dorothy Frances 1925-2021
June 2009 in Essex
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John James Elliott

John James Elliott was born in the parish of Poplar, East London on 3 May 1927 [1], the son of Arthur James Elliott, a ship riveter from Limehouse, East London and Dorothy Caroline Dore from Pimlico. John James (known as 'Jack') was the third of four children living in a two-room flat at no 4 Quebec Building, Gaslee Street,Poplar, just off the 'Isle of Dogs' in east London. Jack was baptised at All Saints Church, Poplar on 19 May 1927 [2], where his father Arthur's occupation is listed as a trench hand. Normally his father Arthur was employed as a riveter in shipbuilding and repairs in the docks, but at the time when the economy was slowing down as Britain approached the great economic depression in the early 1930s work was hard to come by and as needs must Arthur found work on a construction site. Contemporary newspaper accounts record that Arthur and his brother Frederick Victor were working on the foundations of the Department of Industry building in Westminster when, four weeks after John James christening, Arthur's brother Frederick was killed in a tragic accident on the construction site.

The flats in which the Elliott family were living when John James was born, i.e. Quebec Buildings were part of the 'Canada Estate' in Preston's Road, Poplar comprising six tenement blocks built in 1904 on land previously purchased for the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel but which was but surplus to requirements. Although the blocks appear plain and ugly on the outside, the flats were well fitted-out for the time and were popular with tenants. The six blocks of flats in Preston's Road are shown below.

Quebec Buildings

Quebec Buildings, Preston's Road, Poplar

On Wednesday 29 October 1930 John James attended his first day at Woolmore Street Infants School[3], located mid-way between Poplar High Street and the East India Dock Road. Originally opened in 1816 as the 'Poplar and Blackwall Free (British) School) the school was substantially rebuilt in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By all accounts, John's schooldays were not exactly trouble-free as his mother, Dorothy Caroline Dore, was called to the school on more than one occasion. Four years later, on 26 October 1934, John left the infants school and transferred to the Woolmore Street Boys Department.

In 1934 the Elliott family moved the short distance from Quebec Buildings to no. 3 Harrap Street. They took over the three-bedroom house complete with lodger and cat when John's aunt, Florence Yule, moved out to Dagenham, in Essex. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II in 1940, whilst John was still a pupil at Woolmore Street School he was evacuated to Wiveliscombe, near Taunton in Somerset. Even though John was staying with his friend Donald James, he wasn't happy with life in the country, in particular he wasn't overly keen on eating salads, which he called 'rabbit's food'. At the height of the Blitz in 1941 the Elliott family home in Harrap Street was bombed and John's mother and sister joined him for a while in Somerset. It was a difficult time for everyone as due to the friction between the Londoners and the locals, and which fortunately came to an end when the Elliott family, including John were able to move into a bungalow in Hornchurch, Essex, away from the nightly bombing in Poplar. However their stay in Essex didn't last long as John's mother Dorothy missed the life and people of the east end. Talking to their landlord they learned that he had some properties for rent in Poplar and within a few of arriving they returned to live at no. 10 Scouler Street, Poplar, just round the corner from where they were bombed out in Harrap Street.

There is no surviving records of when John left school, but it would have been sometime early in the war when he turned fourteen. It is not known what employment John was engaged in during the early part of the war, but when he turned seventeen he signed up as an able seaman for the merchant navy, serving aboard ships that travelled in convoys carrying raw materials vital for the UK war effort as well fuel, troops and munitions. In April 1944 he spent three weeks at training school and the 09 May 1944 joined his first ship, the Norwegian vessel the D/S Lago at Glasgow. The Lago was part of a convoy which sailed from Scotland calling at Loch Ewe in the northwest highlands, Philippeville in Algeria, Gibraltar, Huelva in southwest Spain and then returning to Liverpool on 26 July 1944. Records indicate that in August 1944 John travelled to Huelva in southern Spain and in September across the Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia possibly on board the D/S Lago. In October 1944 until early 1945 John was aboard the Danish vessel SS Valborg transporting munitions to France and Germany. In March that year John was serving on the Norwegian SS Bergensfjord, conveying troops from Russia to France and Italy. Towards the end of 1945 his travels on the Dutch vessel SS Stuyvesant took him to West Africa, Lagos and Freetown. John served on at least four other ships until he was discharge from the merchant navy early in January 1947.

Life in the merchant navy was so dangerous and loses were so high that individual seamen could decide if they wished to sail and risk attack by German forces, or to enlist in the Armed Forces[4]. For service to his country John James was awarded the Italy Star for service to his country on the Norwegian vessel SS Bergensfjord, shown below.

SS Bergensfjord

SS Bergensfjord, 1927

(Anders Beer Wilse / Norwegian Museum of Cultural History)

Shortly after the war ended in 1949 John James gained his licence from the Corporation of the City of London to act as a porter in what is now known as the old Billingsgate Market, located in Lower Thames Street, London. In 1982 Billingsgate Market moved to a new site on the Isle of Dogs, close to where John James was brought up in Poplar.

On Saturday 26 July 1952 John James, aged 25 married Ada Rosetta Ellen Cole at All Saints Church, Poplar [5]. At the time of the wedding, John was living in Scouler Street whilst Ada or 'Cissie' as she was known was living not far away in Preston's Road. It is noted that the Curate mistakenly entered the groom's father as Arthur Edward Elliott, instead of Arthur James Elliott.

John James took a keen interest in most sports, particularly football, rugby and boxing until he died in Bethnal Green in 2009.


[1] John James Elliott, Birth Certificate, 1927
[2] Baptism Registers, All Saints Church, 1927
[3] London Metropolitan Archives, Woolmore Street School Register, 1930
[4] Linskey, Bill (1999) 'No Longer Required' Pisces Press. ISBN 0953728501
[5] John James Elliott, Marriage Certificate, 1952

(I would like to thank Janet Elliott for providing some of the material on which the above account is based).