Brigadier General Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DCM, VD

Harold Edward 'Pompey' Elliott. A02607

Date of birth: 19 June 1878
Place of birth: West Charlton, VIC
Date of death: 23 March 1931
Place of death: Victoria

Harold "Pompey" Elliott was a senior First World War officer, businessman, and politician. He was born on 19 June 1879 at West Charlton, Victoria. Elliott joined the University of Melbourne's officer corps while a student but left 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, Mentioned in Despatches, and once received Lord Kitchener's congratulations for his defence of a post. Equally successful as a student and athlete, Elliott returned to university, earned a number of scholarships and prizes, played football, and was a champion shot-putter. He was called to the Victorian and Commonwealth Bar in 1907 and established a firm of solicitors. He married Catherine Campbell in 1909 and in the meantime had joined the militia as a second lieutenant. By 1913 he had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and was given command of the 58th Battalion. The army was Elliott's passion and he immersed himself in military lore.

When the First World War began Elliott was given both command of the 7th Battalion and the nickname - "Pompey" - that stuck for the rest of his life. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, was shot in the foot, evacuated and did not return until June. Once back he quickly gained a reputation for courage and leadership - four of the seven Victoria Crosses awarded at Lone Pine went to Elliott's battalion.

A short-lived command of the 1st Brigade was followed in March 1916 by promotion to brigadier general and command of the 15th Brigade. Through no fault of Elliott's, the brigade's first action on the Western Front, at Fromelles, was a disaster in which over 5,500 men were killed or wounded in one night. Elliott wept as he met survivors coming out of the line.

But war also energised Elliott. Careful of men's lives, he was sometimes reckless with his own. A frank, outspoken man, he clashed with his superiors and was considered a difficult subordinate. In battle he proved to be an excellent, sometimes inspirational, leader. He expected to be given a divisional command and the denial of his ambition in May 1918 remained a source of bitterness until his death. For the rest of the war he led with characteristic zeal and in January 1919 he received the fondest of farewells from his brigade.

In the 1919 federal election he successfully stood for the Senate as a Nationalist; he was re-elected in 1925. He also took command of the 15th Militia Brigade. Alongside his political and legal career, Elliott was involved in the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. His protests at having been denied higher command continued and were rejected by the Military Board and the Minister for Defence.

Only in 1927 was Elliott promoted to major general and given command of the 3rd Division; however, his bitterness, expressed in correspondence to his superiors, remained. In March 1931 he committed suicide.

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