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Vincent Kenneth Elliott: A Brave Soldier of the Great War

PUBLISHED: 10:24 08 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:24 08 August 2014

Vincent Elliot's memorial stone.

Vincent Elliot's memorial stone.

Archant

My great grandmonther, Lillian Isemonger (nee Setterfield), lived in Gravesend in Kent, latterly of 48 Norfolk Road where she died in 1953.

On her death, a set of beautiful embroidered wartime postcards from WWI were placed in my possession for safe keeping. As a five-year old at the time, I had no idea of the sentimental value nor the history of these cards, but I have always treasured them and kept them safe.

Now in my sixties I have recently looked again at these cards and wondered why a man with the name Elliott should be addressing my great grandmother, called Isemonger, as ‘Mum’.

Firstly I found Vincent and his family in the 1911 Census records living in the Milton district of Gravesend. I still wondered what the connection was, but Vincent had quoted his army number and regiment on the cards and this enabled me to trace his war service record. It is amazing how carefully the official records were kept in the light of the numbers of soldiers going to war and the terrible conditions under which they operated. The records showed that my great grandmother was listed as Vincent’s foster mother, so my lifetime mystery was solved.

However, the records became so fascinating to read that I kept on moving through the pages to find out what happened to him. He may have relatives still living in the Gravesend area who may be interested to know what happened to this very brave and valliant solder.

Vincent was born in 1896, son of William Elliott an engine driver at the local gasworks. I have been unable to discover why my great grandmother was his foster mother and I do not know what happened to his own mother, but he had at least two brothers, Stanley and Joseph, and sisters, Adeline and Dorothy. The address was shown at 14 Augustin Road.

Vincent was an apprentice plumber, but failed his proficiency test. So, at the age of 19 years and 3 days, he enlisted on 22nd April 1914.

He joined as a Private in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment (Engineers) with a serial number 10344 and was sent to the front in France.

Three times Vincent was sent home to recover from wounds – a bullet wound to his left leg in 1915, a shell wound to his ankle in 1916 and a gunshot wound to his left arm in 1917.

He must have been a truly valliant soldier since he was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in 1916 for outstanding bravery in the field of action.

As I worked my way through his records, it was with great shock and disappointment that a copy of a telegram appeared which notified his family of his death on 30th June 1918 age 22 in number 39 Stationary Hospital in France from a headwound received during action.

Such a sad situation after serving for four years and seventy days, and so close to the end of this terrible conflict.

My great grandmother was notified by the then Imperial War Graves Commission that he was buried in France.

The Commonwealth Graves Commission, as it is now called, has a website which will give the details of burial locations and fortunately Vincent had given me enough information on his postcards to enable me to find out where he was buried.

He is resting at peace in the communal cemetery in Aire-sur-la Lys just south of St Omer in northern France.

The CWGC has a plot in that cemetery which contains 911 casualties, 894 of whom are our Commonwealth soldiers.

Vincent’s grave can be found in Plot III, row G and is grave number 1. The simple message on his headstone reads:

His memory is as clear today

As in the hour he went away

Daisy and Dad

This in itself posed further questions. What happened to Vincent’s brothers and was his sister Dorothy known as ‘Daisy’? Sadly my searches have not been able to trace his family any further because I do not have enough information to hand. Perhaps someone in the Gravesend area knows of this family and what became of them all, but my visit to Vincent’s grave on 17th May 2014 was a sad reminder of how so many of the young men of that time gave their lives for our future. It was an honour to place a single red rose on his grave and bow my head in thanks.

If you have information about Vincent’s family, please call 01233653484.

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