Major General Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott, 15th Brigade

Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during the Boer War, Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott commanded the 7th Battalion in the fighting on Gallipoli, and then the 15th Brigade on the Western Front. Devoted to his troops and always concerned for them, he watched as his beloved brigade was virtually annihilated in the disastrous attack at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. In the hours afterwards, he was seen greeting the brigade’s survivors with tears streaming down his face. Elliott continued to command the brigade throughout the battles of 1917 and 1918, culminating in the counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, and the battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. Elliott was a head-strong character and constantly confronted his superiors; his forcefulness was often unwise, and his claims sometimes foolhardy.

Arriving home in early 1919, Elliot returned to his pre-war occupation as a lawyer. A year later, he was elected to the Senate as a representative of Victoria, and was re-elected in 1925, and sought to bring greater awareness to veteran issues. However, Elliot often spoke bitterly about those he blamed for withholding his higher promotion. He was promoted to major general in 1927 in command of a militia division, but for him this was too little too late. Obsessed with this sense of injustice, and feeling the strain of war service, politics, and business, his health broke down. Elliot ended his life in March 1931.

Prepared by Drs Aaron Pegram, Meleah Hampton and Lachlan Grant,
Military History Section, Australian War Memorial, 28 March 2019

WWI