b. 22/01/1889 Lancaster Gate, London. d. 11/02/1918 Hannover, Germany.
Neville Bowes Elliott-Cooper (1889-1918) was born on the 22nd January 1889, at 81, Lancaster Gate, London, and was the youngest son of civil engineer Sir Robert Elliott-Cooper, the Crown Agent Engineer for the construction of railways by the government in British West Africa and Lady Fanny Elliott-Cooper (nee Leetham). He was educated at Eton between 1901 and 1907, where he won the Eton College House Sports silver trophy and was a member of the Eton College Volunteers, and later the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. On the 9th October 1908, he entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers, and saw action in South Africa, Mauritius and India.
At the outbreak of war, Elliott-Cooper was already a member of the Regular Army, and it would appear that he served with a different battalion within the regiment. In March 1916, he was awarded a Military Cross for his part in operations against the Chord at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, which linked the trenches Little Willie and Big Willie. A series of mines had been detonated which had only partially damaged around one third of the length of the trench, but Elliott-Cooper, commanding “C” Company, 9th Royal Fusiliers, led his men forward and rushed their assigned section and held it. Although casualties were heavy the operation was considered a success and on the 14th May 1916, his citation appeared in the London Gazette and he was promoted to Captain.
The following year, on the 18th July 1917, he earned a Distinguished Service Order and was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding one of the New Army battalions, the 8th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, which had been formed at Hounslow on the 21st August 1914 as part of K1 and came under command of 36th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division and landed in France in May 1915. The DSO had been awarded for rallying his battalion when they had become disorganised and leading a patrol of 20 men forward to capture 20 of the enemy and securing vital information about the enemy.
He was just 28 years old when he was awarded the VC for his actions on the 30th November 1917, east of La Vacquerie, near Cambrai, and the citation reads:
“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Hearing that the enemy had broken through our outpost line, he rushed out of his dug-out, and on seeing them advancing across the open he mounted the parapet and dashed forward calling upon the Reserve Company and details of the Battalion Headquarters to follow. Absolutely unarmed, he made straight for the advancing enemy, and under his direction our men forced them back 600 yards. While still some forty yards in front he was severely wounded. Realising that his men were greatly outnumbered and suffering heavy casualties, he signalled to them to withdraw, regardless of the fact that he himself must be taken prisoner. By his prompt and gallant leading he gained time for the reserves to move up and occupy the line of defence.” — The London Gazette, 12 February 1918
He died of his wounds while a prisoner of war on the 11th February 1918 in No. 1 (Reserver) Prisoner of War Camp, Lazaret, Hannover, Germany, and the news of his passing came via the British Red Cross in Copenhagen. His personal effects were later forwarded from Hanover, and a month later his parents were at Buckingham Palace to receive the posthumous VC from the King on the 25th May 1918. A memorial service had been held for him a month after his death in March 1918 at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, which was attended by members of the family, friends and a detachment from the Royal Fusiliers who had lined the aisle during the service.
Elliott-Cooper was buried in Hamburg Ohlsdorf Cemetery and he is commemorated in several places around the UK, including the Eton College Memorial, Sandhurts Military College, Surrey, St. Mary’s Church, Bentworth, Hampshire and in the south aisle of Ripon Cathedral, owing to family ties with the Yorkshire town. He is also commemorated on the Royal Fusiliers Memorial, along with his brother Gerald D’Arcy Elliott-Cooper, who died in 1922, as a result of wounds he received in August 1915.
His VC, DSO, MC and bronze death plaque were presented to the Royal Fusiliers Museum by the family in 1973, and is displayed at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London, but the three Great War service medals are in private hands.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL FUSILIERS MUSEUM, TOWER OF LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: OHLSDORF CEMETERY, HAMBURG, GERMANY.
PLOT V, ROW A, GRAVE 16
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Thomas Stewart – Medal Group Image at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London, and the two images from Eton College.
Paul Deeprose – Image of the VC Medal.
Terry Hissey – VC Stone at the MOD Building, London.