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Guide to the papers of Brigadier General Harold Edward ""Pompey"" Elliott
The papers of Brigadier Pompey Elliott comprise records relating to his military service during the Boer War and First World War in his capacity as commander of 7th Battalion and later 15th Brigade. While the collection does contain some official papers from the First World War much of the material from this time is of a more personal nature, including his original wartime diaries, correspondence to his extended family, albums of news clippings, photographs and correspondence documenting his First World War service, and photographs of his wife and children. The post-war papers predominantly relate to Elliott's campaign while a senator to redress the supersession issue, including correspondence to Generals White, Monash, McCay, and Hobbs. Also included is correspondence between Elliott and CEW Bean relating to the writing of the official history and Elliott's accounts of particular battles, such as Lone Pine, Fromelles and Polygon Wood.
SERIES 1: Diaries, 1901; 1914-1919 - Diaries written by Elliott documenting his Boer War and First World War experiences. They record military activities, movements and notes on individuals as well as his personal opinions and thoughts on such things as the success of operations, the discipline of his troops and the effectiveness of his superior officers.; SERIES 2: Military correspondence and papers, 1916-1919 - Correspondence and papers relating to Elliott's roles as commanding officer of 7th Battalion and later 15th Brigade. Correspondents include General Birdwood, Brigadier White, Major General Monash and General McCay.; SERIES 3: Personal correspondence, 1914-1919 - Extensive series of correspondence primarily from Elliott to his wife, Catherine (Katie). Also included is some correspondence to his children, and correspondence between Elliott and various family members. Elliott's letters to his wife often focuses on the issue of his supersession as well as providing a very detailed account of his military service.; SERIES 4: Military career,1901-1968 - This series comprises official and personal correspondence and papers that document Elliott's service during the Boer War and First World War and his militia service, 1901-1913. ; SERIES 5: Post-war career, 1915-1931 - This series primarily consists of papers relating to work undertaken by Elliott following the First World War, as well his work as a senator in the Victorian parliament. Topics covered include Elliott's assistance to CEW Bean in writing the official history, Elliott's efforts to redress his grievances over alleged war time supersession, and his arrangements to lodge his wartime records with the Australian War Memorial.; SERIES 6: Photographs, c.1914-c.1919 - This series comprises photographs taken of Elliott and his military associates during the First World War. Also included are photographs of his wife and children.; SERIES 7: Typed extracts of personal correspondence and diaries, 1914-1918 - This series comprises typed extracts from edited letters sent by Elliott during the First World War to members of his family and extracts from his diaries. Also included are extracts from selected letters received by Elliott from Generals White and Monash 18 October to 5 May 1919. The extracts were prepared by the 7th Battalion Association following amendment and censorship of the original letters and diaries by Elliott, the Association Secretary and Violet Elliott. The internal numbering system reflects the batches of typing.
Harold Edward Elliott was born on 19 June 1878 at West Charlton, Victoria. He was educated at Ballarat College and the University of Melbourne (Ormond College) where he studied law. It was also Ormond College where he joined the officer corps. He interrupted his studies in 1900 to enlist in the 4th Victorian Imperial Contingent and fight in the Boer War. Elliott proved himself a skilled and courageous soldier; he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for an audacious night exploit, mentioned in despatches, and on one occasion received Lord Kitchener?s congratulations for his defence of a post. Elliott returned to university and was equally successful as a student and athlete, earning a number of scholarships and prizes, playing football, and becoming a champion shot-putter. He was called to the Victorian and Commonwealth Bar in 1907 and established a firm of solicitors. He married Catherine (Katie) Campbell in December 1909 and they had a daughter, Violet, and son, Neil. He had returned to the army part time in 1904 as a second lieutenant in the 5th Infantry Regiment (militia). In 1913 he became Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 58th Battalion under the new universal training scheme. When the First World War began Elliott was given both command of the 7th Battalion. It was about this time that his troops gave him the nickname """"Pompey"""" that was to stick for the rest of his life. It was derived from the champion Carlton footballer, Fred """"Pompey"""" Elliott (McMullin, 96). Hard training and stern discipline were the foundations on which he built the battalion at Broadmeadows and in Egypt. His career at Gallipoli was sporadic. He was shot in the foot during the initial landing, evacuated to Alexandria and did not return June. Once back he quickly gained a reputation for courage and leadership. At Lone Pine on 8 August his battalion relieved part of the 1st Brigade and in the next twenty-four hours repulsed the Turkish counter-attacks by furious close-quarter fighting and bombing. Four of the seven Victoria Crosses awarded for Lone Pine went to Elliott's battalion. At the end of August he was evacuated sick. He returned in November but sprained his ankle and was, to his great irritation, again evacuated. After a short period as commander of 1st Brigade Elliott was promoted to Brigadier in March 1916 and appointed to organise the 15th Brigade in the new 5th Division. The brigade's first action on the Western Front was at Fromelles in a poorly conceived and executed diversionary attack. Elliott had believed it to be a hopeless task and opposed the attack. It proceeded and resulted in over 5 500 men killed or wounded in one night. Elliott was reported to have greeted the surviving troops coming out of the line with tears streaming down his face. Elliott's brigade played an important role in following up the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917. His next major action (and possibly his finest) was the battle of Polygon Wood, September 1917, where his grasp of the situation and capacity for quick, decisive action was supreme. Not only attaining the objectives of his own brigade, Elliott lead his troops to capture the objective originally assigned to the British. Elliott fought at Amiens, Peronne, and later at the Hindenburg Line. As was typical of Elliott's career, his brilliant actions at Polygon Wood were overshadowed by controversy. In a harshly worded report to General Birdwood written largely in ignorance of the situation that had confronted them, Elliott castigated the efforts of the British troops. Birdwood ordered all copies of the report destroyed. In March 1918 Elliott's brigade returned to the front to assist after the German March offensive. Confronted with British troops falling back from this shattering blow Elliott ordered any stragglers shot who refused to be rallied. This order was quickly withdrawn by his divisional commander Major-General Talbot Hobbs. Despite his differences of opinion with his senior officers, Elliott did command the respect and confidence of his men. The 1918 15th Brigade had further success under Elliott. Ordered to retake the village of Villers-Bretonneux, he organised a night attack which proved brilliantly successful and later the brigade played a significant role in the allied advance leading to victory. Elliott's career was marred by what he perceived as his supersession when Brigadiers Gellibrand and Glasgow were promoted ahead of him, denying his ambition of a divisional command. This remained a great source of bitterness until his death. Following his return to Melbourne in June 1919 he resumed his law practise and and in September 1919 began his political career when he was elected to the Victorian Senate for the National Party. He made use of this position to publicise and seek re-dress for his wartime grievances. He had re-joined the militia as commander of 15th Brigade in September 1919 but asked to be placed on the unattached list in February 1921 in order that the issue of his alleged supersession could be placed before the Minister for Defence, George Pearce. When the issue was debated in the Senate Elliott's arguments were firmly rebutted by Pearce. Elliott continued to pursue the matter sporadically over the next ten years. Only in 1927 was Elliott promoted to Major General and given command of the 3rd Division; however, his bitterness, expressed in correspondence to his superior officers, remained. In March 1931 Elliott was found with a wound in the arm and was taken to hospital where he died on 23 March. The subsequent inquest concluded he had suicided. Elliott was buried with full military honours in Burwood Cemetery, Melbourne.
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Boer War; Military Correspondance; Photographs
Brigadier General Harold Edward ""Pompey"" Elliott
Correspondence; Diaries; Personal papers; Photographs