Guide to the papers of Brigadier Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DCM, VD



Title: Papers of Brigadier Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DCM, VD.

Date range: 1901-1968.

Reference number: 2DRL/0513

Extent: 7 boxes + 5 folios.

Location: Private Records collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.

Abstract: This collection contains papers created by and relating to the military service of Brigadier Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DCM, VD and covers the period 1901-1968. It contains personal and semi-official correspondence and papers that document his role during the First World War as commander of 7th Battalion at Gallipoli and later 15th Brigade on the Western Front. Also included are papers relating to his post-war career as a senator in the Australian Parliament, 1919-1921.

Administrative information

Provenance: Elliott's papers were transferred to the Memorial in a number of instalments between 1929 and 1971 by his wife Catherine and daughter Violet. The donations were amalgamated into four collections, 1DRL/0264, 2DRL/0513, 3DRL/3297 and 3DRL/3856. At the time of donation some documents were removed from the Elliott papers and, in keeping with the practice of the time, incorporated into the Memorial's existing published and official records collections.

Access: Open.

Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Research Centre.

Preferred citation: Papers of Brigadier Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DCM, VD.

Additional information

Related collections:

  • AWM 3DRL/3328, correspondence from Elliott to J C Richardson, including a detailed account of the battle of Lone Pine.
  • AWM 3DRL/3866, records of members of 7th Battalion and Christmas cards from 7th Battalion at Gallipoli inscribed by Elliott.
  • AWM26
  • AWM4.
  • AWM51, item 2, Report on operations of 15 Australian Infantry Brigade at Polygon Wood, 24-27 September 1917.
  • AWM38 3DRL 0606 item 261, C E W Bean and A Bazley's correspondence with Elliott, 1918-1929 and copies of Brudenell White's letters to Elliott.
  • AWM84 item B44 unit history for 7th Battalion 1919-1933.
  • State Library of Victoria, MS9099, papers relating to Elliott's academic law studies plus programs, invitations and letters of sympathy to Mrs Elliott following her husband's death.
  • Additional material on Harold 'Pompey' Elliott can be found in the following AWM collections: Photographs, Art and Military Heraldry and Technology.

Biographical note

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.


  • Dennis, Peter, Grey, Jeffrey, Morris, Ewan, Prior, Robin. The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. (Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia, 1995).
  • Hill, A J. Australian dictionary of biography, volume 9: 1891-1939. (University of Melbourne Press).
  • McMullin, Ross. Pompey Elliott. (Melbourne: Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, 2002).

Scope and content note

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
1/1 Diary, February-May 1901, written by Elliott while serving in South Africa with 4 Victorian Imperial Contingent. 1
1/2 Diary, August 1914-September 1915. 1
1/3 Diary, November 1915-November 1916. Also contains an account of 7th Battalion's landing at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli. 1
1/4 Diary, November 1916-March 1918. 1
1/5 Diary March 1918-August 1918. 1
1/6 Diary August 1918-April 1919. 1

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
2/1 Field notebook containing handwritten copies of operation orders for 15th Brigade for the period 28 March 1916 to 14 July 1917. The orders were copied by Major George Wieck for Elliott. 1
2/2 Typed copy of Elliott's farewell message read to 7th Battalion the day before he left to take command of 15th Brigade, 1916; typed copies of correspondence between Elliott and Brigadier White, 1916; typed copies of operational reports by Elliott, including personal narratives of Polygon Wood, 1916; Correspondence to Elliott from various commanders relating to his awards, 1916-1918; Letter written by General Birdwood to his commanders requesting the cessation of criticism of British troops by Dominion troops, 1918; Correspondence concerning the re-capture of Villers Bretonneux, 1918; Congratulatory messages to 15th Brigade regarding their successful attack on Villers-Bretonneux, 1918. 1
2/3 Correspondence written by Elliott, 1916-1918 to correspondents in France; article relating to Lieutenant Norman Dalgleish, DSO, 58th Battalion, 1918. 2
2/4 Correspondence to Elliott from his soldiers, their parents and others, 1916-1919. 2
2/5 Correspondence to Elliott from his soldiers, their parents and others, 1919. 2
2/6 Correspondence to his Catherine Elliott relating to Elliott and his soldiers, 1915-1919. 2

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
3/1 Correspondence, October-December 1914 from Elliott to his wife. 2
3/2 Correspondence, January-June 1915 from Elliott to his wife. Includes a description of the Gallipoli landing. Some letters are incorrectly dated 1914. 2
3/3 Correspondence, June 1915-December 1915 written by Elliott to his wife from Gallipoli and from Egypt while recovering in hospital from wounds sustained at Gallipoli. The letter dated 8 August 1915 provides a description of the battle of Lone Pine. 2
3/4 Correspondence, January 1916-June 1916 written by Elliott to his wife while stationed in Egypt. Also includes some letters to his children. Elliott often discusses his rank, promotions and recognition of his service at Gallipoli. 2
3/5 Correspondence, June 1916-October 1916 written by Elliott to his wife while en route to France and from France. The letters written on 19 and 20 July refer to the Battle of Fromelles. 2
3/6 Correspondence, October-December 1916 written by Elliott to his wife from France. He comments several times on his disappointment with the result of the conscription plebiscite. Also included is one letter from Elliott to his son. 3
3/7 Correspondence January-May 1917 written by Elliott to his wife from France and also England while he is convalescing from illness in hospital in England. Several letters mention his being awarded a CMG. 3
3/8 Correspondence May-December 1917 written by Elliott to his wife from France, England and Belgium. In his letter dated 14 May 1917 he briefly mentions the Second Battle of Bullecourt and the battle for Polygon Wood in his letter 2 October 1917. Also included are letters to each of his children for Christmas. 3
3/9 Correspondence January-May 1918 written by Elliott to his wife from France. In several letters Elliott expresses his despondency about the length of time he has been separated from his family and his fears that the war will continue for a long time. He also mentions the battle of Villers-Bretonneaux in his letter dated 28 April 1918. 3
3/10 Correspondence May-October 1918 written by Elliott to his wife from France. His letter of 24 May details a meeting with General White regarding Elliott's supersession. He also mentions his award of CB in his letter of 8 June 1918, the battle of Hamel in his letter of 8 July 1918, the battle of Amiens in his letter of 12 August 1918 and the battle of St Quentin Canal in his letter of 3 October 1918. 3
3/11 Correspondence November 1918-February 1919 written by Elliott to his wife and children from England and France. He writes about the end of the war, the dissolution of 15th Brigade and leave in England. 3
3/12 Correspondence March-May 1919 written by Elliott to his wife and children from France, Belgium and England. 3
3/13 Correspondence April 1915-December 1916 written by Elliot to his sister in law Belle (Baaby) from the boat awaiting the landing of Gallipoli, Egypt and France. 3
3/14 Correspondence January 1917- April 1919 written by Elliott to his sister in law Belle (Baaby) from France and Belgium. 4
3/15 Correspondence July 1916-January 1919 written by Elliott from France and Belgium to his cousin Emily Edwards (Milly) . 4
3/16 Correspondence to Elliott, 1913-1929, from various family members. 4

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
4/1 Certificate of service in South Africa, 1902; Letters and messages, 1901-1907, received by Elliott during, and relating to, his service in South Africa. Includes references and letters of commendation used in gaining commission prior to the First World War; documents and correspondence with Major C B B White relating to training exercises, 1901-1913, 4
4/2 Papers relating to the honours and awards received by Elliott including correspondence to Catherine during the First World War notifying her of awards received; certificate of commissioning as Lieutenant Colonel and certificates for the honours and awards he received; letter to Miss Violet Elliott from Central Army Records Office (CARO), 1968 recording the citations for the seven Mention in Despatches awarded to Elliott and a certificate for each occasion. 4 (includes oversized item)
4/3 Typewritten lecture on discipline delivered by Major J K Forsyth at the Victorian United Services Institute 29 April 1913, with handwritten amendments by Elliott. 4
4/4 Telegrams primarily to Catherine, including reports of Elliott's leave, wounding and return to Australia, 1917-1919. 4
4/5 Two albums containing photographs, newspaper cuttings, correspondence and papers documenting Elliott's military service and personal life, 1901-1928. oversized
4/6 Illuminated book presented to Elliott by the Essendon Citizens Military Association, 1919. oversized
4/7 Welcome home and presentation address by the South African and Active Service Association and the 15th Brigade Association, AIF, 1919; illuminated certificate presented to Elliott by the Welcome Home Committee, 1919. oversized

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
5/1 Correspondence between C E W Bean and Elliott, April-June 1923 relating to the Official History; documentation for the writing of the Official History including original handwritten signals, sketch maps, orders, 1915; handwritten and typescript account of the Battle of Lone Pine prepared in response to Bean's request, 1923; correspondence between Captain W J Symons VC and C E W Bean, 1923; and a copy of 7th Battalion official war diary, August 1915; manuscript by Elliott (undated) describing the Battle of Fromelles. 4
5/2 File of correspondence between C E W Bean and Elliott, May 1929-September 1930, exchanging information for Bean's use in the Official History. 4
5/3 File of correspondence by Elliott, August 1929-October 1930 to various newspapers concerning Jacka's report on the use of tanks, Lance Corporal Scurrie's invention of the Gallipoli delayed action rifle, the debate over British control of command of the Australian Imperial Force, accusations of Elliott's anti British sentiments, and the Australian Defence System. 5
5/4 File of correspondence and statements regarding the supersession of Elliott, April 1918-September 1929. Included are: a statement written by Elliott at the time of his supersession, May 1918, to the War Records Section; correspondence with Major John Treloar in his capacity as officer in command of the Australian War Records Section, June 1918; statement by Elliott to the Military Board, March 1921; questions submitted by Elliott while a senator to the Minister of Defence, May 1921; and letters of support to Elliott from soldiers who served under him, April-June 1921. 5
5/5 File of correspondence relating to Elliott's supersession, 1921-1929. Correspondents includes C E W Bean, General Monash, General Hobbs, General White and General McCay. 5
5/6 Correspondence to Elliott, 1919-1930 (plus undated letters or those with pages missing), from civil and military associates. 5
5/7 Elliott's typed introduction to W H Downing's To the last ridge, 1920, and two typed carbon copies of criticisms; remarks by Elliott on Liddle Hart's The Remaking of Modern Armies, 1918; bound signed presentation volume of The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, The Senate extracts from the journals of the Senate No 83 Wed 25 March 1931 and House of Representatives extracts from Votes ad Proceedings No 122 Tues 24 March 1931, relating to the death of Elliott 23 March 1931. 5
5/8 Correspondence between Elliott and John Treloar relating to Elliott's papers being deposited with the Australian War Memorial, 1921-1930. Correspondence from Treloar, 1927, to Mrs H E Elliott requesting papers relating to Elliott's brother Captain G S Elliott, Australian Army Medical Corps (killed in action 26 September 191) and photocopies of a letter Elliott wrote to his brother, and a censored intelligence summary, May 1917. Letter dated 14 September 1942 to Nurse Violet Elliott, Australian Army Medical Corps from W H Downing of H E Elliott, Downing and Oldham solicitors forwarding a letter written by Field Marshal Lord Plumer to Elliott 22 October [post war]. 5

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/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
6/1 Photograph album, c. 1915, with images of Egypt. 5
6/2 Family and military related photographs, c.1914-c.1919 including studio portraits of Elliott's wife Kate and their children; images of Lieutenant General Sir Talbot Hobbs with some of Elliott's troops; a signed studio portrait of Lieutenant General Sir Talbot Hobbs; and informal photographs of Elliott's troops. 5

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.

Series/Wallet Title, date and description Box / Folder No.
7/1 Original correspondence from Jamieson to the Director of the Australian War Memorial, 1931-1938 concerning the project for the typing of Elliott's letters. 6
7/2 Typed extracts of correspondence October 1914-May 1915. 6
7/3 Typed extracts of correspondence May-December 1915. 6
7/4 Typed extracts of correspondence March-August 1916. 6
7/5 Typed extracts of correspondence August-December 1916. 6
7/6 Typed extracts of correspondence January-August 1917. 6
7/7 Typed extracts of correspondence August-September 1918. 6
7/8 Typed extracts of correspondence September 1918-May 1919. 6
7/9 Typed extracts of diaries October 1916-December 1917. 6
7/10 Typed extracts of diaries January 1917-March 1918. 6
7/11 Typed carbon copy extracts of correspondence October 1914-December 1918. 7
7/12 Typed carbon copy extracts of correspondence January-May 1918. 7
7/13 Typed carbon copy extracts of correspondence and diaries October 1914-March 1918. 7
7/14 Typed carbon copy extracts of diaries January 1917-March 1918. 7