b. 05/06/1899 Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. d. 06/10/1944 Dehra Dun, India.
Roland Edward Elcock (1899-1944) was born on 5th June 1899 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshir, and lived with his family at 52 Alma Street. He was the son of George and Fanny Elcock. He had three brothers (George, John and Joseph), and two sisters (Florence and Sarah). He attended Causeway Lake Infant and Junior School 1902 – 1913. He then became a clerk at the Labour Assembly Rooms, Queen Square.
Keen to be a soldier, he enlisted at the age of 15 years and 4 months, joining the South Staffordshire Regiment, seeing service in Egypt. He left after two years and worked briefly at the Corporation Electricity Works in Commercial Road, Wolverhampton. When he reached 18 in June 1917, he rejoined the Army, being transferred to the Royal Scots.
He first was awarded the Military Medal, before his heroic actions in France earned him the Victoria Cross. On 15th October 1918, south-east of Capelle-St. Catherine, France, Corporal Elcock was in charge of a Lewis gun team, and entirely on his own initiative he rushed his gun up to within 10 yards of enemy guns which were causing heavy casualties and holding up the advance. He put both guns out of action, capturing five prisoners and undoubtedly saved the whole attack from being held up. Later, near the River Lys, this NCO again attacked an enemy machine-gun and captured the crew.
When an Express and Star journalist had the honour of conveying the news to Mrs Elcock that her son, Lance Corporal Roland Elcock, had just become the first and only Wolverhampton man to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War One, she was “overjoyed at the good news”. However, it seems that the family had had some inkling of what was to come. In one of his recent letters home, he had written: “You ask me what I have been doing to get recommended again. Well, if I tell, you will fairly guess what I am going to get for it. So I will leave it till the decoration comes out. I am expecting the D.C.M., but, as rumours go in the battalion, I am in for the V.C. So I hope I get it.”
On Elcock’s return to Wolverhampton, he was greeted at the High Level Station by thousands of citizens, including the Mayor and other civic dignitaries. Described by the Wolverhampton Chronicle on 5th February 1919 as “modesty personified”, he “did not wish to talk about one of the most remarkable exploits of the war. He was content to let the official record speak for itself.” The streets were lined with cheering and waving, and people shaking Elcock by the hand. In response to the civic reception, Elcock stated, “I thank you very much for the way you have welcomed me home. Wolverhampton is my home, and I appreciate it very much. But in winning this great distinction, I have only done my duty to my King and country.”
He later achieved the rank of Major in the British Indian Army during World War II, dying at Dehra Dun, India, on 6th October 1944. He was buried in St Thomas’ Churchyard, Dehra Dun. His medal group comprising of the VC, MM, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935 and King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 are held by the Royal Scots Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL SCOTS MUSEUM, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: ST THOMAS’ CHURCHYARD, DEHRA DUN, INDIA.
Thomas Stewart – Images of his medal group at Royal Scots Museum, Edinburgh and the stone at Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh.
Richard Pursehouse – VC Stone in Wolverhampton.