Charles Arthur Boileau Elliott (9 February 1893 – 12 April 1917)
Charles with his sister Katherine
Writing Charles Elliott’s story has been very different from the previous ones because for the first time there was a tangible link through his father – Charles Elliott’s father was the Rector of Tattingstone at the time of the War and in memory of all the men who died the Rev’d Charles Lister Boileau Elliott wrote an individual obituary to each of them in a book he called the Tattingstone Liber Vitae. Not surprisingly, a good deal more was written about his own son than the other men but despite this it remained remarkably detached. It gave a much more detailed insight into the family and the young man.
Additionally, the discovery on the internet of a website dedicated to the Barton family, from whom Charles descended, proved to be a wonderful souce of additional information about a most interesting Victorian family which will feature in further articles in due course.
2nd Lieutenant Charles Elliott was the first officer from the village to die. He came from a long distinguished lineage on both sides of his family. In particular the Elliotts were descended from the Boileaus of Castelnau in France, a notable family who fled their country in the late 1600s to avoid persecution for not being Roman Catholics and it is the Boileau name which crops up so often as a middle name in their family.
The family had a long association with the Church and India, living or travelling to the subcontinent for either their work as missionaries or with the East India Company. The connection to Tattingstone came when, after a short career with the latter, Charles’ great grandfather, the Rev’d Charles Boileau Elliott, bought the “advowson” here in 1838, which is the right to nominate someone for a vacancy in the benefice, and so Tattingstone became their “living” and also the burial place of the family. However, he appeared to have spent more time abroad than here in the village!
Charles was the only son of the Rev’d Charles L. B. Elliott and Katherine Peel Elliott, whose father was also a Rector. He had followed in his father’s footsteps, first attending Repton School and then Cambridge University, where in 1913 he intended to take Holy Orders. However like many young men of his generation, at the outbreak of war he obtained a commission and in his case he was gazetted to the Norfolk Regiment in August 1914. The following year he went to Gallipolli where he was wounded and after four months recovering in England, he rejoined his Regiment in Egypt on the Suez Canal. By now he had decided that the Army was his vocation and he obtained a transfer to the Somerset Light Infantry in 1916 and by February 1917 was on the Western Front in France – a decision that cost him his life.
Through accounts of his last few days we know that Charles was involved in the Battle of Arras. He was wounded on 10th April and died two days later. The day before he was wounded he had taken part in a very important part of the battle and on the 10th he had lead his men over the top. A fellow officer wrote this of him in a letter to his parents:
“Part of the Regiment went over again from the Hyderabad Redoubt; this is where Elliott was wounded. He first got a machine gun bullet through the hand and then another through the stomach. He was quite cheerful when he left the battlefield. I thought he would recover. He did splendid work on the attack.”
Charles was buried in Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, Pas de Calais and he is commemorated on the Tattingstone war memorial. There is also a memorial dedicated to him in St Mary’s Church with this very poignant inscription:
He died the Noblest death a man may die,
Fighting for God & Right & Liberty
And such a death is Immortality.
Death cannot long divide
For is it not as if the rose had climbed
My garden wall & blossomed on the other side
There are several photographs of the Elliott family on the Barton family website. The one above is of Charles in uniform with his sister. I feel they must have been very close and probably both very scared for the precariousness of their futures – all very reminiscent of Vera Britten’s book “The Testament of Youth”. The photo below could very possibly have been taken in Tattingstone – from the markings it looks like they are on a grass tennis court.
Charles with his father and sister in happier times, probably in Tattingstone
Charles’ Repton School photos
The Liber Vitae is in the Suffolk Records Office but one by one I am copying the passage written for each man and adding it to the village website.
(Thanks to Jennifer Jones and Jean Austin for War Graves information and the Barton family for their website and photogaphs.)