Australian Army soldiers from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, assisted with yard work at Mrs. Tonia Ellis' home in Hebel, Queensland. (Rear L-R) Private Levi Lewis-Smith, Lieutenant Matthew Benn, Private Maeson White, Private Reilly Dalton, Private James Hayes, and Corporal Keith Hughes. (Front L- R) Lance Corporal Justin Wells, Lance Corporal Gregory Meyer and Lance Corporal Jake M
Australian Army soldiers from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, assisted with yard work at Mrs. Tonia Ellis' home in Hebel, Queensland. (Rear L-R) Private Levi Lewis-Smith, Lieutenant Matthew Benn, Private Maeson White, Private Reilly Dalton, Private James Hayes, and Corporal Keith Hughes. (Front L- R) Lance Corporal Justin Wells, Lance Corporal Gregory Meyer and Lance Corporal Jake M

Care army helps mother of fallen soldier in border town

IN THE small town of Hebel, 650 kilometres from Brisbane on the Queensland/New South Wales border, Tonia Ellis overlooks police controlling the border in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Witnessing the operation over the past several months has been an unlikely opportunity to heal for Mrs Ellis, for at this checkpoint too, soldiers from the Australian Defence Force’s Joint Task Group 629.3 are supporting the police.

For weeks, Mrs Ellis has visited them for a chat and to deliver home baked biscuits.

It was during one of these visits that Lance Corporal Justin Wells discovered Mrs Ellis’connection to the ADF.

“We found out that she is the mother of Sergeant Hugh Ellis, who died in the ADF’s worst peacetime incident,” he said.

“Sergeant Ellis was one of 18 men – 15 SAS soldiers and three aviators – who died on Townsville’s High Range when two Blackhawk helicopters collided in mid-air, during a training mission on June 12, 1996.”

Sure enough, a work party was formed, which saw nine off-duty soldiers donating their personal time to transforming Mrs Ellis’s yard.

A “delight” for Mrs Ellis, who is enjoying having soldiers from various army units so near.

“I’m delighted to have them here, so I took down some Anzac biscuits every now and then,” she said.

“It’s been very healing, I’ve been able to talk about things you can’t talk to others about.”

Lieutenant Colonel Bryce Herslet, Commanding Officer of Task Group 629.3’s Task Unit-1 said the soldiers were keen to lend a hand.

“The project members were humbled by the opportunity to contribute, even if only in a small way, to a very deserving person,” he said.

The soldiers were thanked with a generous country lunch, Mrs Ellis told them “my son would be very proud of you all.”

Sergeant Hugh Ellis was born in Victoria on July 2, 1960. He enlisted in the army in September 1982, and was allocated to the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He underwent SAS selection in 1989 and was posted to SASR on 21 June 1989.

Hugh came from 3rd Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment with the rank of Corporal but reverted to the rank of Trooper and transferred to the Royal Australian Infantry on posting to SASR.

Hugh was survived by his wife, daughter and two sons.


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