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Family pay tribute to "Fearless" First World War Hero honoured

A memorial stone to a "fearless" First World War hero from Wolverhampton has been unveiled today (Monday 15 October) - exactly 100 years to the day that he performed a remarkable act of bravery on the battlefield.

Roland Elcock’s grandchildren, Christine Kinsella and Dominic Owen, stood at the memorial stone dedicated to their grandfather
Roland Elcock's grandchildren

The memorial stone dedicated to Roland Elcock which was unveiled today
Memorial stone dedicated to Roland Elcock

Roland Elcock, pictured during his time serving with the Royal Scots Regiment in the First World War
Roland Elcock

Cpl Roland Elcock, of the Royal Scots Regiment, ran alone towards firing enemy machine-guns in Capelle-St. Catherine, France, in 1918.

He got to within 10 yards of the enemy guns, which had been causing heavy casualties, put them out of action, captured 5 prisoners and saved the British advance from being held up.

Later that day, near the River Lys, he again attacked an enemy machine-gun and captured the crew.

In recognition of his bravery, Elcock was awarded the Victoria Cross - the highest award for gallantry - and the official citation described him as "absolutely fearless".

All 469 British soldiers who were awarded a VC during the First World War are having a memorial stone laid in the town of their birth as part of the national centenary commemorations of the conflict.

Elcock, who was born in the Heath Town, Wolverhampton, in 1889, had his stone unveiled at the cenotaph in St Peter's Square, Wolverhampton City Centre, today at a ceremony attended by his grandchildren and civic and military dignitaries.

His granddaughter, Christine Kinsella, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, said: "My grandfather must have been absolutely fearless, he was only 19 at the time. The family are all so very proud, there aren't many people who can Google their grandfather and find what we have found.

"It has been a very proud and emotional day. He was a very shy and modest man and I think he would have been embarrassed by all the fuss that has been made over him, but he deserves it - this is his day."

Grandson Dominic Owen, who lives in Northern Ireland, followed in his grandfather's footsteps. He said: "On hearing my grandfather had the Victoria Cross, when I left school the only thing I wanted to do was follow in his footsteps and I joined the Royal Scots. He was a big inspiration and I'm so proud of him, I don't think I was as brave as him though. I served a good few years, I saw active service in Northern Ireland and The Gulf and it was a wonderful career."

Councillor Phil Page, Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton, said: "Roland Elcock is a true war hero, his bravery on the battlefield 100 years ago was nothing short of astonishing.

"He was rightly awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry and this memorial stone will ensure his memory lives on."

Councillor Linda Leach, chairwoman of the City of Wolverhampton Remembrance Committee, said: "In this centenary year of the end of the First World War, it is fitting that we have remembered Roland Elcock VC, a Wulfrunian who demonstrated such amazing gallantry on the field of battle.

"Elcock returned to Wolverhampton to a heroes' welcome and newspaper stories from the time describe thousands of cheering citizens and a civic reception in his honour. Elcock sounds like a typically modest Wolverhampton chap, he did not boast about his actions and felt he had done no more than duty to king and country required."

After the war, Elcock worked at Wolverhampton Corporation Electricity Department and later moved to India finding employment in the post and telegraph service. He was promoted to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs on the North-West Frontier.

During World War Two he achieved the rank of Major in the British Indian Army. He died of ill health at Dehra Dun, India, on 6th October 1944 where he is buried.

In August this year, a memorial stone was unveiled in honour of Wolverhampton's only other First World War VC holder, George Onions, at Oxford Street in Bilston.

  • released: Monday 15 October, 2018