The story of John Ford Elkington is one of dishonour, courage, heroism and redemption. He was one of five sons and a daughter of Dublin born Lt. General John Henry Ford Elkington (1830 – 1889) who was Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey and whose family had a strong Army tradition and background.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, D.S.O., (1866 – 1944) by William Orpen (1916).

Medium: Oil on Canvas: 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cms).

Signed: Lower Left ‘ORPEN’.

Current Location: Private Collection.

Provenance: Artist’s Studio Book for 1916; Painted in 1916, then gifted to the Sitter in February 1918.

By descent; Private Collection.

Exhibited: London, Royal Academy, 149th Summer Exhibition, 1917, No. 238.

Royal Academy, London, Commemorative Exhibition of Works by Late Members, 52nd Winter Exhibition, 7th January – 31st March 1933, Gallery Number III, No.146, as “Lt.-Col. J. Elkington, D.S.O.”, lent by Lt.-Col. J. Elkington D.S.O. (Catalogue page 34).

Literature: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1917, Plate. Y97, as “Colonel Elkington”.

 

Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 56th Exhibition, 29th September – 15th December 1917, Gallery Number 2 (Oils), No.90, as “Lt.-Col. J.F. Elkington, D.S.O.”, (Illustrated in Catalogue, Plate 14).

Unpublished Letter dated 16th January 1917 from William Orpen to Mrs Elkington:-

                                                            Section transcript:-

I do not think I have ever painted a man I admired so much as the Colonel, and I painted that portrait with all my heart and soul, and (forgive me for saying it) am proud of the result, and would not change a line of it if I were paid untold gold, can you understand that feeling? I do hope so, as it really hurts me not to please people, and I was so looking forward, if you liked it, to giving it to the Colonel, just in a small way to show him what genuine admiration I have for his great nature. Please tell him how thankful I am for being allowed to meet him, and let him know that if ever I do part with the picture, which is unlikely, I can assure him it will find a good home – at the same time please understand, as I mentioned at the start of this letter, that I can see perfectly your point of view and are not in the least hurt, also please thank the Colonel for sitting so well, it is seldom a sitter gives one the chance of doing all one wants to as he did.

Yours very sincerely,

William Orpen”.

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The Scotsman – Saturday 5th May 1917, The Royal Academy. A General Impression, page 6.

Derby Daily Telegraph – Saturday 5th May 1917, Our London Letter, London, Saturday Morning, The Academy Pictures, page 4.

Liverpool Daily Post – Saturday 5th May 1917, The Royal Academy, War Effects In Art, By A London Correspondent, page 7.

Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 5th May 1917, A Khaki Academy, An Array of Mid- Victorian Paintings, Studies In The Commonplace, Mr. Orpen’s Fine Portraits, Colonel Elkington, D.S.O., page 8.

“…. A keener sense of its [i.e. the grim tragedy of the ghastly conflict that fills so many homes with grief] real significance  is conveyed by Mr. W. Orpen’s magnificent portrait of Colonel Elkington, D.S.O., a soldier to the tips of his fingers, but a soldier who has suffered, mentally and phy­sically, and whose manly features bear the traces of his suffering. Mr. Orpen dominates the Academy this year. Each of his six portraits is a masterpiece in its way: Mr. Winston Churchill, General Sir John Cowans, Lady Bonham-Carter, Sir John Benn, Bart., and Viscount Bryce, O.M. But the quiet pathos of “Colonel Elkington” is more impressive than all the dazzling qualities of his other portraits.”

Evening Despatch – Monday 7th May 1917, Academy Impressions, page 3 –

Colonel Elkington, ‘the man who made good,’ another of Orpen’s brilliant successes – a long, narrow, hard-bitten face, with deep vertical fissures like splits in a rock. The prominent blue eyes, ironic and melancholy, are averted and cast half down, as though he brooded with a little bitterness upon the past. You look with awe on such a face, and yet with liking.”

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Monday 7th May 1917, The Royal Academy, First Notice, page 3.

Mr. Orpen shows six works which display a good average level of excellence, and are at their best exceedingly strong. His two most powerful works are both in the same room, and are portraits of soldiers. “Sir John Cowans” (213) strikes one by its vivacity, and by a certain variety in its colour-scheme; “Col. Elkington” (238) makes a more serious appeal by its tremendous intensity and force. It is quiet in colouring, khaki seen against curtains of silvery tone, but it is in the keen sympathy shown in the portrayal of the thin, worn face that the special strength of this masterly portrait lies.”

The Bystander – Wednesday 16th May 1917, In England Now – A Weekly Letter from “Blanche”, London, May 14, Royal Academy Private View, page 333.

The Great War. The Standard History of The All-Europe Conflict, Volume IX, Part 147, Week Ending June 9th, 1917, Amalgamated Press, London, Art in Wartime – Royal Academy 1917, p.175 (Illustrated in Sepia as “Colonel Elkington, D.S.O.”).

The Scotsman – Friday 28th September 1917, Royal Glasgow Institute 56th Annual Exhibition, page 5 .

Unpublished Letter dated 17th February 1918 from William Orpen to Colonel Elkington:-

“I am only too pleased to give you a present of the painting – but if you do not like to accept it send me along a cheque”;

P.G. Konody and Sidney Dark, Sir William Orpen, Artist and Man, Seeley Service, London, 1932, P.G. Konody, “The Artist – Portraits and Self-Portraits”, pages 222, 244, and, ”Appendix – Chronological List of Paintings”, page 271.

Page 244:- Colonel Elkington, D.S.O., was one of the sitters who absorbed his interest to an extent that made him relegate his own personality to the background. Here, in the sympathetic collaboration between artist and sitter which is essential to all vital portraiture, the artist is entirely subordinated to the sitter. Everything is dominated by the distinguished soldier’s suffering, careworn features.”

Description: Three-quarter length portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, D.S.O., of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, seated against a light curtained background. Medal Band (left to right):- DSO – King George V, Delhi Durbar Medal – Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps, – Medaille Militaire (France) – Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

“Orpen accentuates the conventional pyramidal shape, by the symmetrical rigidity of pose, with both elbows resting on the arms of a chair. Then, he has ingeniously counteracted the severity of the pyramidal form by the gathering of the curtain-folds in the background from the top corners towards the centre, instead of directing them in the customary way from the top centre towards the sides. The general drabness of the khaki British Army service uniform, is partly offset by the light reflecting from the buttons.”  [P.G. Konody and Sidney Dark, Sir William Orpen, Artist and Man, Seeley Service, London, 1932, P.G. Konody, “The Artist – Portraits and Self-Portraits”, page 222].

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Biographical Details:-

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington was the eldest son of Dublin born, Lieutenant-General John Henry Ford Elkington, CB, (1830 – 1889), who was Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey from 1885 to his death in 1889, and was buried in Cobo cemetery, Castel, Guernsey with full military honours. His mother was Scottish born Margaret Elkington née Jamieson (1847 – 1935), and his paternal grandfather, who had four other sons, also regular officers, was James Goodall Elkington (1784 – 1853), an Army Surgeon. In the same family tradition, John Ford also had four brothers, who all became regular army officers.

The five sons of Lt.General John Henry Ford Elkington.

Lt. Gen. John Henry Ford Elkington and his wife, Margaret Jamieson with their five sons.

 

Career:-

Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, D.S.O., was born, 3rd February 1866, in Newcastle, Saint Andrew, Jamaica. After school at Elizabeth College, St James Street, St Peter Port, Guernsey, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Honorary Queen’s Cadet, John Ford Elkington,  joined his father’s regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, on 30th January 1886, 1st Battalion, formerly 6th Foot, as a Lieutenant; He was promoted to Captain, (Royal Warwickshire Regiment), on 25th January 1893; between 11th March 1899 – 23rd May 1900, he volunteered and was employed with the West Africa Frontier Force, in Nigeria, but was invalided home suffering with malaria; promoted to Major, (Royal Warwickshire Regiment), on 10th April 1901; served in South Africa (2nd Boer War), 1900 – 1902, receiving four clasps for the Queen’s South African Medal – Cape Colony (11 October 1899 – 31 May 1902), Orange Free State (28 February 1900 – 31 May 1902), Belfast (26 or 27 August 1900 (Transvaal)) and South Africa 1901 (1 January and 31 December 1901); In February 1907 he was serving with the 3rd Battalion in South Africa; Effective 6th April 1910, shown as instated as Lieutenant-Colonel (Royal Warwickshire Regiment), (Backdated – refer British Army List, October 1917, Graduation List of Officers of the British Army – Lieutenant-Colonels, p.176 and British Army List, October 1912, Graduation List of Officers of the British Army – Majors, p.321, which still shows rank as Major); 2nd April 1911 UK Census (Military) shows rank Major, absent from 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, stationed in Bombay, India, en route to England; January 1913 returns with regiment from Bombay, India via temporary quarters at Fort Burgoyne, Dover before moving to allotted quarters at Shorncliffe Garrison; as of 24th February 1914, rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (Royal Warwickshire Regiment), and took command of the Shorncliffe Camp; deployed to France, 22nd August 1914; as a result of an incident at St Quentin, France, on 27th August 1914 – Cashiered by sentence of a general Court-martial, 14th September 1914; On 15th February 1915, enlisted 3e régiment de marche of the 1er étranger in French Foreign Legion as Légionnaire 2nd Class, and was subsequently, on 14th July 1915, assigned to, and served with 2e régiment de marche of the 1er étranger. His registration number was 29274 and his recruitment registration number was 11319; May 1915, saw action at Arras, France; wounded in the right leg by Maxim machine-gun fire, on 28th September 1915, during attack on Navarin Farm in the Champagne Region of France, by the 2e régiment de marche of the 1er étranger; hospitalised, for ten months (eight of which on his back), in the Hospital Civil at Grenoble, France, during which time awarded the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre avec Palme, which were pinned on his breast, by General Moreau at the direct request General Joffre; also mentioned in French Army Orders; rose to rank of corporal in the Legion; July 1916, discharged from hospital and the French Foreign Legion, returns to England for convalescence; Re-instated, on 22nd August 1916, in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, with previous seniority, (Royal Warwickshire Regiment); made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) in recognition in recognition of his distinguished services in the Foreign Legion of the French Army, by King George V, on 20th October 1916; Placed on Half Pay, 24th February 1918; and retired to the Reserve of Officers in July 1919; 3rd February 1921 – Having attained the age limit of liability to recall, he ceased to belong to the Reserve of Officers.

For his First World War service he received the 1914 Star (Mons Star), British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Elkington’s Foreign Legion documents: –

 

 

 

 

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The St. Quentin Incident and Consequences:-

At the outbreak of the first world war Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington commanded the first battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The Regiment went to France as part of the expeditionary force and the first battalion was caught up in the retreat of 1914. During the retreat the battalion got separated. After a long retreat without food or sleep Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington arrived at the town of St Quentin with 100 of his men. There he met Lieutenant-Colonel Mainwaring who was there with 150 of his men of the Irish Fusiliers. Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington was the senior Lieutenant-Colonel and so took charge and sent Lieutenant-Colonel Mainwaring into the town to negotiate with the Maire for food and shelter.  The Maire was very worried about this as he felt that the Germans would bombard the town if British soldiers were there. As far as Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington was concerned they agreed that they would not fight in the town but by the old railway station. However, without his knowledge or approval, Lieutenant-Colonel Mainwaring signed a document for the Maire, and the troops were provided with food and shelter. In the event no attack or bombardment took place and when he saw that the situation had changed Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington left his soldiers under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Mainwaring, and departed to seek the rest of his Battalion”.

In due course the battalion was reunited and encamped. A week later Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington was arrested. The document signed by Lieutenant-Colonel Mainwaring had been discovered and was considered to be a document of surrender. The two Lieutenant-Colonels were tried by a court-marshal accused of cowardice and surrender. Although he had not signed the offending document Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington accepted responsibility as the senior officer. In the event they were acquitted of cowardice (so the firing squad was stood down) but found guilty of conspiring to surrender. They were stripped of rank and dismissed from the British Army.

The two ex Lieutenant-Colonels were sent back to England. Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington spent a short time with his young family. He then took himself back to France where he enlisted in their Foreign Legion as a legionnaire second class, despite his being nearly 50. Legionnaire John Ford Elkington, as he then was, fought with distinction with the Legion until he was severely wounded in the leg during an attack on Navarin Farm in the Champagne region in September 1915. It was thought at first that he would lose his leg but, in the event, it was saved by a series of operations and ten months spent in hospital in Grenoble. However, he would suffer for the rest of his life and always have a pronounced limp.

By the time of John Ford Elkington’s return to England his situation had become known. He was reinstated in the British Army with his previous rank and seniority. He was twice received in audience by the King and on the second occasion decorated with the DSO.

“Dear Colonel Elkington – The King commands me to inform you that in virtue of the Sovereign’s power to ask special exceptions to the Statues of the Distinguished Service Order, His Majesty has much pleasure in conferring that Decoration upon you in recognition of your distinguished services in the Foreign Legion of the French Army.

The King will ask you to attend here in the course of a few days, when His Majesty will privately invest you with the Decoration.”

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Personal Life:-

On 9th July 1908, Major John Ford Elkington married Mary Rew (1866-1956), and had three children, John David Rew Elkington (1909-1987), Jean Margaret Rew Elkington (1914-1974), and Richard Ford Rew Elkington (1918-1943).

Elkington family photo.

After John Ford Elkington retired from military service, the family moved from Pangbourne to Adbury Holt, Burghclere, near Newbury, where he became a Justice of the Peace.

On 19th January 1943, he suffered the loss of his youngest son, Richard Ford Rew Elkington, of the 10th [2nd Battalion The Tower Hamlets Rifles] Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, who died of wounds, received near Bou Arada, Tunisia, and is buried in Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery Plot 11. H. 5.

John and Mary Elkington, gifted a commemorative stained glass window dedicated to their fallen son, at their local church, the Church of the Ascension, Burghclere. The dedication on the window reads:- “In proud and loving memory of Richard Ford Rew Elkington Capt: The Rifle Brigade born at Adbury Holt in this Parish 22.V.1918 died of wounds near Bou Arada Tunisia 19.1.1943” “The gift of his parents.”

In May 1946, Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein unveiled this stained glass window in his memory, along with two stone plaques below and to the right and left, one dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington’s son-in-law, the husband of Jean Margaret Rew Elkington, Sir Richard de Bacquencourt des Voeux who was killed at Arnhem on 20th September 1944 when commanding 156 Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, himself, who died in Burghclere, Hampshire, on 26th June 1944, and is buried along with his wife, Mary, who died 26th May 1956, in Burghclere Hampshire.

Double Stained glass window at the Church of the Ascension, Harts Lane, Burghclere, Newbury, UK.

A double stained glass window in Elkington’s memory and that of his son, Richard, was unveiled by Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, in Burghclere Church in May 1946. The window depicts St George and St Richard (left) featuring St George and a kneeling soldier praying wearing Captains uniform and St Richard (right) and Regimental crest of the Rifles on bottom right corner of the right panel.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF LIEUT-COLONEL JOHN FORD ELKINGTON DSO.

Medaille Militaire Croix de Guerre with Palm.

BORN 3RD FEB 1866 DIED AT ADBURY HOLT 27TH JUNE 1944 SERVED HIS COUNTRY IN NIGERIA THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR BERMUDA INDIA AND THE FIRST GREAT WAR.

Inscription on the window: – “In proud and loving memory of Richard Ford Rew Elkington Capt: The Rifle Brigade born at Adbury Holt in this Parish 22.V.1918 died of wounds near Bou Arada Tunisia 19.1.1943” “The gift of his parents.”

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As an Aside –

In his record of events in August 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington describes his Battalion’s part in the retreat of 1914, and  how he decided on 26th August “that the best way to relieve the pressure was to make a counter attack against this hill.” At that time one of the officers under his command was Bernard Montgomery (later to become Field Marshall Montgomery). Bernard Montgomery was at that time a Platoon Commander in C Company of the First Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Bernard Montgomery’s description of the attack on the hill was “Waving my sword I ran forward in front of my platoon, but unfortunately I had only gone six paces when I tripped over my scabbard, the sword fell from my hand (I had not wound the sword strap around my wrist in the approved fashion!) and I fell flat on my face on very hard ground. By the time I had picked myself up and rushed after my men I found that most of them had been killed!” But for that stumble the course of the second World War, might have been somewhat different!

The Medal Band –

Orpen included in his portrait the medal band as it would have been in 1916, just after Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington, received his D.S.O. from the King on 20th October. The band represents five medals all of which have been positively identified, and can be matched with the actual medals still in the possession of the family.

1                    2                  3                   4                     5

(1) D.S.O. – (2) – King George V, Delhi Durbar Medal  – (3) Queen’s South Africa Medal – (4) Medaille Militaire (France) – (5) Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

D.S.O. – King George V, Delhi Durbar Medal – Queen’s South Africa Medal – Medaille Militaire (France) – Croix de Guerre avec Palme (France).

King George V’s Durbar Medal 1911.

Change in the Order of the Medals on the Band.

For his First World War service he received the 1914 Star (Mons Star), British War Medal and the Victory Medal. 

Medal collection of Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, D.S.O.

It will be noted that in the array of medals as they are today, there are a further three medals, and the King George V, Delhi Durbar Medal, is in a different position in the line-up. The three extra medals are the First World War medals, the 1914 Star (Mons Star), British War Medal, and the Victory Medal (nicknamed ‘Pip, Squeak, and Wilfrid’, after the Daily Mirror cartoon), given to all  soldiers eligible, but obviously issued after Orpen had painted the portrait.

The change of position of the medal can be explained thus: Such commemorative medals were worn in date order, alongside Coronation and Jubilee medals, on the left chest, suspended from a ribbon one and a quarter inches wide. Commemorative medals were worn before campaign medals (i.e. Queen’s South Africa Medal, in this instance) until November 1918, after which the order of wear was changed, with such commemorative medals now worn after campaign medals and before long service awards.

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COLONEL ELKINGTON INTERVIEWED.

“lt is something to feel that once again I have the confidence of King and country,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington to a representative of the “Evening News.”

“Fragments from France,” was his cheery remark, as he pointed to his damaged knee, shattered by Maxim gunfire while serving in the ranks of the French Foreign Legion. I am afraid it has put an end to my career in the field, and I cannot hope to have any more first-hand experience of fighting. Even so, I must not complain, as I had an experience of twenty months in the trenches with a regiment which has gained the reputation of possessing the finest troops in the world. Very few Englishmen have even a remote idea of its constitution and methods. The senior officers are practically without exception French, but the rank and file are drawn from every part of the globe. I can correct the idea that the discipline of the Legion represents that of a penal settlement. We were all the time in the thick of the fighting in the Champagne country. Although originally attached to the army of Morocco, we were fed and housed by the French Government, to whom we also looked for our pay. I did not attain any rank above that of a legionnaire, but I have brought back two more ‘fragments from France.” The colonel showed the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre, gained, as the inscription shows, for “Valeur discipline.” They were awarded him at Grenoble for distinguished conduct the field. He was personally decorated by an officer attached to General Joffre’s Staff.

Such is the plain, unvarnished story of the “Man who made good.” I could not persuade him, says the interviewer, to give his own story of the particular deed of heroism which gained him two of France’s most coveted honours.

Colonel Elkington did not attempt disguise his identity when he enlisted in the Legion. “Why should  I not serve private?” he said. It is no disgrace for man to figure in the ranks of that famous corps. Moreover, I had to a debt to wipe off. Now the debt is paid, I should be something less than human if I did not feel deeply grateful for the honour conferred upon me. For ten months I was lying in a French hospital. Nothing could have been kinder than the treatment I received, but it is nice to be back in England, even if I am crocked.”

JOHN FORD ELKINGTON ACCOUNT OF COURT MARSHAL 1914: –

“On 25 Aug. 1914 my battalion left their bivouac near BOSIGNY about 4 a.m, forming the Advanced-Guard of the 10th Infantry Brigade until a line of railway was reached about 9 a.m. this was not considered a good position, the 10th Infantry Brigade then fell back (my battalion forming the rear-guard) to a position on high ground in the vicinity of a large farm. Trenches were dug the 10th Infantry Brigade taking up a position to cover the retirement of other troops during the afternoon the enemy’s artillery opened on us but there were few casualties. At about 1 a.m. (26 Aug.) the 10th Infantry Brigade left this position falling back on LIGNY, the Brigade marching once more through the night and reached the vicinity of LIGNY at about 6 a.m. where a halt was made. No sooner had the men taken off their equipment and were getting ready for a rest than heavy artillery fire was heard and wagons were seen rushing down a hill opposite us and slightly to our left many of them being overturned. I immediately got the Battalion together 2 companies I formed up in a ditch  by the side of a road just in front of us, the remaining 2 coys about 200 yards in the rear. I then looked at the situation and decided that the best way to relieve the pressure was to make a counter attack against this hill. This I did with my Battalion but once having gained the top of the hill we came under heavy maxim and shrapnel fire and I considered it necessary to fall back. I fell back slowly to my old position and entrenched. We stayed in these trenches all day exposed to heavy shrapnel fire during parts of the day. Towards evening we commenced to fall back, each trench being held as long as possible, the Battalion falling back in batches, we then got separated. I fell back with the men in a sunken road towards the village of LIGNY where a better position could be obtained and from there after dark we followed a main road. I did not know in which direction we were supposed to retire. During the retirement in the dark it was impossible to keep the same men together for any length of time, there being so many stragglers and the men were continually falling out with exhaustion. About 2 a.m. (27th) I halted on the outskirts of a village and collected another 60 men of my Bn by 4 a.m. I then continued my march, these men having had little to eat for 24 hrs my first thought was where to get them some food. I continued my march in the direction of ST QUENTIN which I knew to be a railway junction and at about 8 a.m. I met Col …… (with some of his Battalion and some of mine). We continued our march together and managed in one village to obtain some loaves for the men which gave them a small piece each. We were in all about 250 men. During our march we constantly heard guns firing and reports were brought to us that the Germans were close. Along the road we came across the discarded ammunition of some British Artillery which extended for at least a mile, this did not have a cheering effect on our men who were tired and worn out. On reaching the vicinity of ST QUINTON I halted and put out outposts and observed two German cavalry patrols. I sent Col ….. Into ST QUINTON in order that he might make arrangements for feeding the men and getting train accommodation. Col ….. sent me a note telling me to march into the town and meet him at the Railway Station which I did, arriving there at about 2 p.m. (27 Aug) there I halted and let the men rest as they were in a state of collapse. I met a Staff Officer who was leaving the town, he told me the Maire would make arrangements for food and a train. I sent Col ….. To interview the Maire, where he arranged for food which we received about 3 p.m. On Col ….. return he told me the Maire was in a terrible state owing to the close proximity of the Germans and that the Maire had told him the town was surrounded, that he was preparing to surrender, that all motor cars leaving the town were being sent back, and that the presence of British troops were a danger to the town, as the Germans might shell the town causing great danger to the women and children. We then went to arrange for a train but all the offices were closed and the staff had fled. I then consulted with Col …. and told him to pacify the Maire and tell him that I would not fight in the town but our men must have rest and food. There was never the slightest intention in either of our minds to surrender to anyone nor did we do so, we fully intended to leave ST QUINTON and continue our march on NOYON directly the men were rested. If surprised by the Germans my intention was to fight at the back of the station and not in the streets so as to save unnecessary slaughter of the women and children of whom the town was full. Col …. proceeded to the Maire with an interpreter and signed a paper to the Maire. This paper I never saw until the trial and did not know till then how it was worded. I am sure when Col ….. signed it he did so under great mental and physical strain and did not realise the consequences. I thought at the time the Maire was exaggerating the situation. I then marched the men into the Station Yard and spoke to my men Col …..  to his men and told them that two courses were open to them:-

  1. To march in the direction f NOYON a distance of 40 kms, where I would lead them.
  2. To remain with the risk of becoming prisoners of War.

Not a single man volunteered to continue the march, in fact they were exhausted and could not. I then put the men in one shed to rest and feed and their arms and ammunition by squads in another shed close by where they could be easily got in case of need. About an hour after this I was washing and we heard a noise in the yard Col …..rushed out and I followed, we found a cavalry officer addressing the men, they were taking no notice of him. Col ….. at once spoke to the men and said that if they remained with him he would see them through. I saw the situation had changed and that all was clear. I urged the men to fall in and come out with me but they would not. As I saw the danger was passed and they could get out when they chose I left the Yard at about 5.30 p.m. as I was anxious to get on and collect more stragglers. I found a deserted horse on the Square and some discarded British saddlery, I saddled the horse and rode out of ST QUINTON exactly at 6 p.m. with Major …. On the way I collected a large number of stragglers from different Battalions and marched towards NOYON. I caught up with the 5th Division and got some wagons for the exhausted soldiers and rode on myself and joined my own Division (4th) at about 5 p.m. (28 Aug) having been more or less without food or rest since 4 a.m. 25th Aug. Col ….. with the men left ST QUINTON at 7 p.m. 27th and every man got safely away, not one man surrendered or was lost. Wagons had to be got to get these tired troops along.

The paper that Col ….. unfortunately signed to the Maire without my authorisation was got by a Staff Officer after I left ST QUINTON. On 28th I took over command of my Battalion which had collected at NOYON and commanded them through the remainder of the retreat and on two days in the advance and was once more in action with them. I was then arrested. I was slightly wounded at the fight at LIGNY by shrapnel in the foot and shoulder but did not report sick as I was anxious to remain with my Battalion. I was taken straight to my trial after a long days march and tried on the following charges:-

  1. Cowardice: Of which I was acquitted.
  2. Conspiring to surrender: Of which I was found guilty.

I had no one to help me in the defence of myself and the other Colonel and was not in a fit state to think clearly, as senior Officer I took the full blame of any mistakes made and asked for Col …’s acquittal as I was sure he was not in a fit state to be tried. After the trial we were two days under shell fire un-armed before being sent home.”

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Birmingham Daily Post – Saturday 09 September 1916, page 10.

LIEUT.-COL. ELKINGTON’S RESTORATION. HIS VALOUR WITH THE FOREIGN LEGION. “THE SILENT ENGLISHMAN.”

The official announcement that Lieutenant- Colonel J. F. Eikington, formerly of the Warwickshire Regiment, is to be reinstated in his old rank makes it possible to publish certain interesting facts relating to his service with the French Foreign Legion which have been supplied by a member of the Legion, a native of Coventry, who served with the former commander of the Warwicks.

“I remember Mr. Elkington coming among us. He never talked much. He was known as “The Silent Englishman.” We knew he was under a cloud of some kind. Few knew exactly what it was; fewer still cared to know, for men under a cloud are not rare in the Legion, and for so long as a man is a good comrade no one worries about the circumstances that made him a Legionary. One of the first things noted about our new comrade was his coolness and resource under all circumstances. He was instinctively recognised as a leader of men, and some of the roughest of the legionaries submitted to his authority without venturing to question it.

Once we had a rough time—rough for us even. All the officers were knocked over. Elkington assumed command of our company. He led it with marked ability and courage through one of the hottest fights we had ever been in. It was entirely due to his skillful handling that the company was extricated from an awkward position. The handling of the company helped materially the Legion in playing its important part in that day’s operations. It was for his bravery on this and other occasions that Mr. Elkington was given the Medaille Militaire and mentioned in the Order of the Day of the French Army.”

Brave As A Lion.

“Among comrades in the Legion, Mr. Elkington had the reputation of being absolutely fearless. He was certainly as brave as a lion. When it was a question of finding someone to take a particularly dangerous task on hand his name always occurred to one’s mind as that of a man who was likely to take the task when everybody else shrank from it. He was ready to take on anything likely be of service to his comrades or the cause for which he fought. He was an ideal comrade in danger or difficulty. Men engaged in death-grips with the foe fought all the more keenly for the knowledge that the Silent Englishman was fighting by their side and would be one of the last to give way before the enemy, be the odds ever great. There are at least two men in the Legion who owe their lives to timely aid given at critical moments in hard fighting by the Silent Englishman.

It was during the Champagne offensive he was wounded. The Legion was given a hard task. They had to advance against a strong position over ground offering absolutely no cover. Mr. Elkington was with the leading file of the leading company. His fine figure and commanding presence marked him out from among other men more than usually striking. He was hit almost at the moment when the object of attack was attained. It was afterwards stated by the General directing operations that the bearing of his company of the Legion that day was an inspiration to all engaged in the battle, and had contributed to the success of the day’s operations. The Legion lost many loved comrades in that battle. It is safe to say that none was mourned more sincerely than the Silent Englishman, whose wound was too serious to permit of further service with the ‘Legion of the Lost.’ His old comrades will rejoice to know that the unfortunate incident that gave them such a good comrade for over a year has terminated happily with his restoration to the rank formerly held by ‘The Silent Englishman ’ in the British Army.”

ALWAYS VOLUNTEERING FOR DANGEROUS MISSIONS.

Paris, September 7.

Sergeant Posetti, son of the ex-Prime Minister of Roumanian (Romania), now discharged wounded after serving twelve months with the Foreign Legion, states that Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington served under him. He was quiet, cheerful, efficient, the bravest among the brave, always volunteering for dangerous missions. When Posetti left Elkington was corporal. In the Arras drive of last year he was distinguished for his gallantry. He had seen as much fighting as any man in the war, and seemed to bear a charmed life.— “Times” telegram.

“THE DEBT IS NOW PAID”

COLONEL ELKINGTON INTERVIEWED.

“lt is something to feel that once again I have the confidence of King and country,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington to a representative of the “Evening News.”

“Fragments from France,” was his cheery remark, as he pointed to his damaged knee, shattered by Maxim gunfire while serving in the ranks of the French Foreign Legion. I am afraid it has put an end to my career in the field, and I cannot hope to have any more first-hand experience of fighting. Even so, I must not complain, as I had an experience of twenty months in the trenches with a regiment which has gained the reputation of possessing the finest troops in the world. Very few Englishmen have even a remote idea of its constitution and methods. The senior officers are practically without exception French, but the rank and file are drawn from every part of the globe. I can correct the idea that the discipline of the Legion represents that of a penal settlement. We were all the time in the thick of the fighting in the Champagne country. Although originally attached to the army of Morocco, we were fed and housed by the French Government, to whom we also looked for our pay. I did not attain any rank above that of a legionaire, but I have brought back two more ‘fragments from France.” The colonel showed the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre, gained, as the inscription shows, for “Valeur discipline.” They were awarded him at Grenoble for distinguished conduct the field. He was personally decorated by an officer attached to General Joffre’s Staff.

Such is the plain, unvarnished story of the “Man who made good.” I could not persuade him, says the interviewer, to give his own story of the particular deed of heroism which gained him two of France’s most coveted honours.

Colonel Elkington did not attempt disguise his identity when he enlisted in the Legion. “Why should  I not serve private?” he said. It is no disgrace for man to figure in the ranks of that famous corps. Moreover, I had to a debt to wipe off. Now the debt is paid, I should be something less than human if I did not feel deeply grateful for the honour conferred upon me. For ten months I was lying in a French hospital. Nothing could have been kinder than the treatment I received, but it is nice to be back in England, even if I am crocked.”

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The Advertiser, Adelaide, (South Australia), Saturday 09 September 1916, page 9.

COLONEL ELKINGTON REDEEMS HIS HONOR. BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE. LONDON. September 8.

 Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, who has recently been reinstated in rank, and reappointed to the Warwickshire Regiment, was ill for some time after he was cashiered by general court-martial in September, 1914.

He joined the French Foreign Legion in January, 1915. His fearlessness attracted the notice of the officers, notably at Arras in May, 1915, and during the Champagne offensive in September. In one case he rallied and encouraged a handful of men, and hung on for four days to an important post. He was shot in the knee, in the final charge. The colors of the Legion were twice decorated in that week.

Colonel Elkington’s wound developed seriously, but he has recovered, though one leg is an inch short. He was awarded both the French Military Cross and the War Cross. He rose to the rank of corporal in the Legion. He was probably seen as much fighting as any man in the war.

Sergeant Rosetti, a son of a former Roumanian (Romania) Premier, says Colonel Elkington, who served under him, was quiet and cheerful. He was the bravest of the brave and seemed to bear a charmed life.

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Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser – Saturday 16 September 1916, page 6.

COLONEL ELKINGTON’S OWN STORY. “I HAD TO REDEEM MY NAME.”

The Special Correspondent the “Daily Chronicle” had an interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Elkington at Pangbourne.

“Complaint? Good Lord, no! The whole thing was my own fault. I got what I deserved, and I had no kick against anyone. It was just ‘Carry on!’”

Brave words, from a brave man—a man who has proved his bravery and worth in what sorely were as heartrending circumstances as ever any man had to face. My first sight of the Man Who Has Made Good was as he descended the stairs, painfully and with the aid of two sticks, into the hall of his lovely old home by the river at Pangbourne. It is a house which the great Warren Hastings once called home also.

Very genial, very content, I found the man whose name to-day is on everyone’s lips; but is very reticent also, with the reticence natural to the brave man who has achieved his aim and, having achieved it, does not wish it talked of. His frank admission of the justice of the sentence which for the time drove him from the King’s service came with soldierly frankness and directness. “I got what I deserved!”

PERFECTLY SATISFIED.

“And now,” I suggested, “you have again got what you deserve!”

Colonel Elkington drew a long breath. I hope he said, at length, very quietly, “I have got name back again, I hope cleared. That is what a man would care for most, isn’t it?”

“I am feeling perfectly satisfied,” he continued, “for I have been well treated in every way. I have no ill-feeling against anyone. There was something I had to redeem, and thank God, I have been fortunate enough to redeem it. Both His Majesty and the War Office have treated me in the handsomest possible way.”

Of his experiences as “a soldier the Legion” Colonel Elkington would say little, particularly of the deeds which have won him two of the highest honours it possible for a French soldier to win—- the Croix de Guerre, with palm—the highest of its class—and the Medaille Militaire. “I am not allowed,” he said.

At the direct request of General Joffre, the honours were pinned on his breast by General Moreau in the military hospital at Grenoble, of which for ten months he was an inmate. Of that little scene he would say nothing, but others tell of the manner in which the gallant Frenchman embraced him, kissing the embarrassed Englishman both cheeks, in the enthusiastic way of our more demonstrative Allies, had thanking him, in the name of France, for deeds which stood out even from the collective heroism of one of the most dashing and daring of the French regiments.

Colonel Elkington arrived home from France last week-end, and not until he saw the announcement from the “Gazette” in the morning papers was he aware of his restoration by the King to his old rank and honours, or, indeed, that there was any intention of any such action. He was in bed at the time, and, as usual, turned first to the official announcements from the “Gazette” to read there the sign of his Sovereign’s recognition that he had “made good.” Of his feelings at that greatest moment of his career he was silent, but it told how, after a long silence, he turned to his wife with a simple but heartfelt “Thank God, I have got my name back.”

There is always a place in the Foreign Legion for someone who is down in the world,” he told me. “Directly after the court-martial when the result appeared in the papers, I said I must do something, that I could not sit at home doing nothing, and that as I could not serve England I would serve France. Yes, I did offer my services again to England, but it is military law that no man who has been cashiered can be employed again for the King while the sentence stands. So there was nothing for it but the Foreign Legion—that home for the fallen man.”

“LOST DOGS” THE LEGION.

Of that strange and famous corps Colonel Elkington cannot speak without a glint of pride in his keen blue eyes. Splendid men, the best in the world, he calls them, and everyone was as kind as possible to me.” Many there were who had become legionaires because they, too, had failed elsewhere, “lost dogs like myself,” the colonel called them: but the majority of the men with whom served were there because there was fighting to be done, because fighting was second nature them, and because there was cause to be fought for. The officers he describes as the “nicest fellows in the world and splendid leaders.”

When Colonel Elkington first Joined there were many Englishmen included in its ranks, but most of these subsequently transferred to British regiments. He enlisted in his own name, but none knew his story, and often he was questioned as to his reason for not transferring— “and I had to pitch them the tale.”

He kept away from British soldiers as much as possible, “but one day someone shouted my name. I remember I was just about to wash in a stream when a staff motor drove by and an officer waved his hand and called out. But I pretended not to hear and turned away.”

MEN WHO FEAR NOTHING.

“I don’t think that the men in the Legion fear anything,” he said. “I never saw such men, and I think in the attack at Champagne they were perfectly wonderful. I never saw such a cool lot in my life when they went forward to face the German fire then. It was a great fight; they were all out for blood, and though they were almost cut up there they got to the German trenches.”

Colonel Elkington is still a soldier of the Legion, and still wears a bangle round his wrist the Legion identification disc, inscribed one side with the name “Elkington, John Ford, E.V., 1915.” The initials stand for “Engaged volunteer.” On the other side is his number, “Seine, B.C. 11319.”

It was in the Champagne fighting that he was wounded and won his honours. A Maxim gun bullet shattered the leg below the right knee, and though he is to consult a specialist in London next week the colonel is afraid that his fighting days may be over. But, in some capacity or other, he is still hopeful of being able to serve again his King and country.

WHEN THE COLONEL WAS WOUNDED.

In an interview with a “Times” correspondent. Colonel Elkington says: “There was an American with me called Wheeler, a famous surgeon. He came over and joined the French Red Cross. He had tired of that and joined the Legion. I met him first marching up to the front. I thought he was a tramp, and I expect he thought I was one. When we got Lyons I went down to have meal in the big hotel. There I saw the American sitting over a big dinner and he saw me. From that time on we were friends. We saw that neither was tramp. We marched together, ate together, and became great pals. He was a fine chap and did not know what fear was, and helped to make it a lot easier for me. We went into action together and fell together, both shot in the leg. He gave me first aid, and, looking my leg, said, ‘I say. old man, they will have to take that off,’ then fainted across my leg and hurt like the devil. But he saved my life. He is home again. He got the Croix de Guerre, but was lamed and no use for service, so was invalided out.”

Colonel Elkington spent 10 months in hospital and eight months on his back. This was in the Hospital Civil at Grenoble. He could not say enough for the wonderful treatment that was given him there. They fought to save his life, and when they had won that fight, they started save his leg from amputation. The head the hospital was Major Tennier, a splendid surgeon, and operated eight times and finally succeeded in saving the damaged limb. When he was first in hospital neither the patients nor any the hospital staff knew what was or what he had done. Elkington himself got an inkling his good fortune at Christmas when heard his recommendation for the Croix de Guerre.

THE TWO MEDALS.

“Perhaps that helped me to get better,” he said. “The medals are over there on the mantelpiece.” I went over to where there were two glass cases hanging on the wall. “No, not those; those are my father’s and my grandfather’s.” He showed me the medals, and on the ribbon of the cross there was the little bronze palm branch which doubles the worth of the medal.

When he was wounded Dr. Wheeler gave him a stiff dose of laudanum, but lay for 13 hours until he saw a French patrol passing. He was then 100 yards short of the German second line of trenches, for this was in the Champagne battle September 25th, when the French made a magnificent advance.

It was difficult to get Colonel Elkington to talk about himself. As his wife says, he has a horror of advertisement, and a photographer who ambushed him outside his own lodge gates made him feel more nervous than when he was charging for the machine-gun that wounded him. To say he was happy would be to write a platitude. He is the happiest man in England. He is now away from his home recuperating and receiving treatment, and he hopes that he will soon be able to walk more than the 100 yards that taxes his strength to the utmost at present.

A LEGIONARY’S RECOLLECTION.

The “Birmingham Gazette” publishes the recollections of Colonel Elkington supplied by a Coventry man who also fought in the Foreign Legion:—

“I remember Mr. Elkington coming among us. He never talked much. He was known as “The Silent Englishman.” We knew he was under a cloud of some kind. Few knew exactly what it was; fewer still cared to know, for men under a cloud are not rare in the Legion, and for so long as a man is a good comrade no one worries about the circumstances that made him a Legionary. One of the first things noted about our new comrade was his coolness and resource under all circumstances. He was instinctively recognised a leader of men, and some of the roughest of the legionaries submitted to his authority without venturing to question it.

Once we had a rough time—rough for us even. All the officers were knocked over. Elkington assumed command of our company. He led it with marked ability and courage through one of the hottest fights we had ever been in. It was entirely due to his skillful handling that the company was extricated from an awkward position. The handling of the company helped materially the Legion in playing its important part in that day’s operations. It was for his bravery on this and other occasions that Mr. Elkington was given the Medaille Militaire and mentioned in the Order of the Day of the French Army.

“Among comrades in the Legion, Mr. Elkington had the reputation of being absolutely fearless. He was certainly as brave as a lion. When it was a question of finding someone to take a particularly dangerous task on hand his name always occurred to one’s mind as that of a man who was likely to take the task when everybody else shrank from it. He was ready to take on anything likely be of service to his comrades or the cause for which he fought. He was an ideal comrade in danger or difficulty. Men engaged in death-grips with the foe fought all the more keenly for the knowledge that the Silent Englishman was fighting by their side and would be one of the last to give way before the enemy, be the odds ever great. There are at least two men in the Legion who owe their lives to timely aid given at critical moments in hard fighting by him.”

ONE OF THE ROMANCES OF THE WAR.

“The Daily Telegraph” has had a long leading article on Colonel Elkington’s reinstatement, which includes following:- There are elements in this dramatic story which will appeal to the British race throughout the world. It is one of the outstanding romances of the war. The wheel of fortune, influenced a brave man’s dogged courage, has turned full circle. Though this gallant officer, wearing the most cherished decoration which a soldier can win under the French colours, may never again see active service, his splendid record will abide. It bears testimony alike to his character and to the traditions of the British Army. The tale of Colonel Elkington’s cashiering and reinstatement is one in which the nation may take some pride. We are fighting in the cause justice —justice to the small nations. The principles we preach we practice. This officer has passed through the ordeal of courage to receive again, with the approval of his Sovereign, those marks of respect and authority of which was deprived less than two years ago. There his military record, owing to the honourable wounds received in face of the foe, may, it seems likely, close. But the narrative of his rise and fall and subsequent reinstatement will serve as a beacon of hope to others in like case.

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Nottingham Evening Post – Friday 08 September 1916, page 3.

COLONEL ELKINGTON. ROMANTIC STORY OF THE HEROIC OFFICER.

“Not during the whole progress of this gigantic conflict has a more romantic episode to be recorded than that in the later career of Lieut.-Colonel John Ford Elkington, who has been reinstated by the King, and the sentence of a general Court-martial cashier­ing him from the army wiped out,” wrote ‘‘One Who Knows Him,” in the Evening Standard.

“‘Late in October, 1914, I met him, his army career apparently ruined. He had told the truth, which told against him; but in the moment when many men would have sunk, broken and despairing, he bore himself as he was and as he is to-day, a very gallant gentleman. He had been cashiered and dismissed from the service for conduct which, in the judgment of the Court-martial, rendered him unfit and incapable of serving his Sovereign in the future in any military capacity. The London Gazette came out on Oct 14th, 1914, recording the fact, and it became known to his many friends. For over thirty years he had served, and for distin­guished service wore the Queen’s medal with four clasps after the Boer War. He went to France with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at the out­break of this conflict. His chance had come after twenty-eight years.

During the first terrible two months he had done splendid work. A moment sufficient to try the discretion of any officer arrived. He made his mistake. He told his story to the general Court-martial. He vanished—home; and the London Gazette had the following War Office announcement: Royal Warwickshire Regiment. -Lieut.-Colonel John F. Elkington cashiered by sentence of a general Court-martial. Dated September 14th, 1914.

“He recognised at once, as he sat with me, what that meant. We chatted about various projects, and at last he said, There is still the Foreign Legion. What do you say?”

A REFUGE OF FLOTSAM.

“Being acquainted with it, I told him what I knew; how it was the ‘refuge’ for men of broken reputations; how it contained Italians, Germans, Englishmen, Russians, and others who had broken or shattered careers; the way to set about joining it by going to the recruiting officer at ——–   ; how the only requirement was physical fitness; that no questions would be asked: that I doubted if he would like all his comrades; that the discipline was very severe; that he might be sent to Algiers; that he would find all kinds of men in this flotsam —men of education and culture, perhaps scoun­drels and blackguards as well; but he would soon discover perfect discipline.

“Now for a man of his age to smile as he did, to set out on the bottom rung of the ladder as a ranker in a strange army, among strangers, leaving all behind him that he held dear, was a great act of moral courage. We heard of him at intervals, but such messages as dribbled through to his friends were laconic. We heard also he had been at this place and that, and that he was well and apparently doing well. That he had been repeatedly in serious action of recent months we also knew, and then came the news that he had won the coveted Medaille Militaire—and more, that it was for gallant service. A curious distinction it is in some ways. Any meritorious service may win it; but not all ranks can get it. A generalissimo like General Joffre or Sir Douglas Haig may wear it for high strategy and tactics, and a non-commis­sioned officer or private may win and wear it for gallantry or other distinction. But no officer below a generalissimo can gain it. This distinction Elk­ington won. We all felt he had made good in the Legion, where death is near at all times, and we waited.

“The Gazette announcement has given all who knew him the greatest pleasure. He has told none of them for what particular act he received the coveted medal—just like Jack Elkington’s modesty.”

A CHARMED LIFE.

The Times Paris correspondent says that Sergeant Poseti, son of the ex-Prlme Minister of Roumania (old name for Romania), now discharged wounded after serving twelve months with the Foreign Legion, states that Lieut.- Colonel Elkington served under him, that he was quiet, cheerful, and efficient, bravest among the brave, always volunteering for dangerous missions. In his captain’s words, he was a chic type.

When Rosetti left Elkington was a corporal. In the Arras drive of last year he was distinguished for his gallantry. He had seen as much fighting as any man in the war, and seemed to bear a charmed life.

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Aberdeen Press and Journal – Saturday 21 October 1916, page 4.

COLONEL ELKINGTON RECEIVED THE KING.

Colonel Elkington, whose rank was recently restored to him after he had been cashiered, and he had served in the French Foreign Legion, was received by the King at in Buckingham Palace yesterday. His Majesty greeted the officer with great cordiality.

Colonel Elkington is still very lame, but is otherwise in good health.

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 Evening Despatch – Saturday 28 October 1916, page 4.

COLONEL ELKINGTON.

The following announcement will ap­pear in the London Gazette, dated to-day:—His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to appoint Lieut.-Colonel John F. Elkington (Royal Warwickshire Regiment) to be a companion of the Distinguished Service Order.

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Aberdeen Press and Journal – Monday 30 October 1916, page 5.

HONOUR FOR COLONEL ELKINGTON. COMPANION OF THE D.S.O.

The following announcement appeared in the “London Gazette’’ on Saturday: —

War Office, October 23, 1916. His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to appoint Lieut.-Colonel John Ford Elkington, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, to be a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order.

It will be remembered that Colonel Elkington had been dismissed front the British Army after court-martial. He then joined the French Foreign legion, in which he gained high distinction, and his case was reconsidered by the British authorities, and he was restored to his rank and seniority in the Army.

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Berks and Oxon Advertiser – Friday 03 November 1916, page 2.

COLONEL ELKINGTON AWARDED D.S.O.

The “London Gazette” announces that the King has awarded the D.S.O. to Lieut.-Colonel John Ford Elkington, Royal War­wickshire Regiment.

Lieut.-Colonel Elkington is the officer who was cashiered by sentence of a general court-martial in September, 1914, served with gallantry in the ranks of the Foreign Legion of the French Army, and was rein­stated by the King in September last.

Colonel Elkington. whose knee was shat­tered by Maxim gun fire while in the Foreign Legion, holds the Médaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre.

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The Scotsman – Saturday 05 May 1917, page 6.

THE ROYAL ACADEMY. A GENERAL IMPRESSION.

….The honours are clearly Mr William Orpen’s. He is not afraid to exhibit the fact that he can paint a bad portrait with the worst of them. At the same time he shows at least three —in which we do not include his ”Right Hon. Winston Churchill, M. P.”—that are notable examples of the art in modern hands. Two of them are of soldiers, Lieutenant-General Sir John Cowans and Colonel Elkington, which, hanging together in the same room, illustrate the pliability of the artist’s method to contrasted effects of sentiment, temperament, and experience. In spite of passages of downright ugly colour, and a frequently uncomfortable way of handling paint, both portraits are impressive and winning by force of character, sympathetically studied, and given a vehicle in the paint for exerting its influence on the spectator…

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Derby Daily Telegraph – Saturday 05 May 1917, page 4.

OUR LONDON LETTER. London, Saturday Morning. The Academy Pictures.

….Mr. Orpen with his doubly-lit faces,….

….Only Mr. Orpen has set soldiers against silk curtains. His Colonel Elkington, pale, careworn, in greenish khaki before a white satin hanging is one the most masterly things has done. Opposite his Lieutenant- Colonel Sir John Cowans, a beautiful piece of work, crisp, with living flesh, green silk curtain, and grey coat lined with scarlet. Then in the next room there are his assertive, shrewd, humorous Sir John Benn, again masterly, and his Lord Bryce, the aged, bushy man, one white penthouse an eye catching the light, and below this one reddish patch in the long white moustache….

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Liverpool Daily Post – Saturday 05 May 1917, page 7.

THE ROYAL ACADEMY, WAR EFFECTS IN ART. BY A LONDON CORRESPONDENT.

….In Orpen’s portraits the head and face command, the costume is secondary. Mr. Churchill is standing with his characteristic slight stoop. The head is strongly modelled and the face full of character; but there is a sugges­tion of disappointment in the pose. Even an Orpen can do little with khaki as a study in colour, but the head is powerfully rendered in “Colonel Elking­ton, D.S.O.”….

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Pall Mall Gazette – Saturday 05 May 1917, page 8.

A KHAKI ACADEMY. AN ARRAY OF MID- VICTORIAN PAINTINGS.

STUDIES IN THE COMMONPLACE. ORPEN’S FINE PORTRAITS. Colonel Elkington, D.S.O.

…. A keener sense of its [i.e. the grim tragedy of the ghastly conflict that fills so many homes with grief] real significance  is conveyed by Mr. W. Orpen’s magnificent portrait of Colonel Elkington, D.S.O., a soldier to the tips of his fingers, but a soldier who has suffered, mentally and phy­sically, and whose manly features bear the traces of his suffering. Mr. Orpen dominates the Academy this year. Each of his six portraits is a masterpiece in its way: Mr. Winston Churchill, General Sir John Cowans, Lady Bonham-Carter, Sir John Benn, Bart., and Viscount Bryce, O.M. But the quiet pathos of “Colonel Elkington” is more impressive than all the dazzling qualities of his other portraits. Mr. Orpen’s supremacy in portraiture, in the absence of Mr. Sargent, is contested only by Mr. Glyn Philpot, whose full length of the Marquis of Salisbury in peer’s robes is a work of truly monumental dignity….

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Evening Despatch – Monday 07 May 1917, page 3.

ACADEMY IMPRESSIONS. This year’s Academy is pre-eminently a portrait parade—at least so the majority of critics think. But one of our correspondents writes to say that he was most comforted by the landscapes of our English countryside.

“I don’t think anything our own artists do comes up to their paintings of our serene and noble English country. There was one ‘Early Autumn in South Devon,’ by Wycliffe Egginton, that made me catch my breath with rapture. My face knew again the cool, clean moorland wind and the sweet-scented breath Devon hedges.

“David Murray has two Ullswater pictures. There is one of Wharfedale by Priestman; another of Fifeshire by R. W. Stewart; another of Herefordshire—a wide space of river and green valley under high blue sky—by Lamorna Birch. To look on any of these is to be refreshed and cleansed. It’s like a Beethoven evening at the Proms.”

Mr. Frank Rutter, the well-known critic, records the “happy conversion of Mr. Sims to the Birmingham school of painting, of which Mr. Southall, is the best known exponent.”

“After the landscape I enjoyed most (continues our correspondent) the portraits by Orpen. Few of the other portrait painters have been very happy this year, but Orpen is brilliant.

“You must see his painting of Mr. Winston Churchill! I should imagine it will be easily the success the year. And what a subject for an artist Winston’s head. A perfect landscape! Orpen has revelled in it. Churchill’s energy, disdain, domination, humour, impatience, ruthlessness, generosity—he has put them all in: a true and lively rendering of a big character.

“Colonel Elkington, ‘the man who made good,’ another of Orpen’s brilliant successes – a long, narrow, hard-bitten face, with deep vertical fissures like splits in a rock. The prominent blue eyes, ironic and melancholy, are averted and cast half down, as though he brooded with a little bitterness upon the past. You look with awe on such a face, and yet with liking.”

Lord Bryce and Lady Bonham Carter are other Orpen subjects, and Mr. and Mrs. Asquith were among the private view visitors.

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Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Monday 07 May 1917, page 3.

THE ROYAL ACADEMY. FIRST NOTICE.

….. Mr. Orpen shows six works which display a good average level of excellence, and are at their best exceedingly strong. His two most powerful works are both in the same room, and are portraits of soldiers. “Sir John Cowans” (213) strikes one by its vivacity, and by a certain variety in its colour-scheme; “Col. Elkington” (238) makes a more serious appeal by its tremendous intensity and force. It is quiet in colouring, khaki seen against curtains of silvery tone, but it is in the keen sympathy shown in the portrayal of the thin, worn face that the special strength of this masterly portrait lies. In “Lady Bonham-Carter” (29) he repeats the complex scheme of lighting that has adopted recently, and with great applause; but its repetition soon palls, and it now seems a rather cheap effect, though so brilliantly carried out….

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The Bystander – Wednesday 16 May 1917, page 333.

In England Now – A Weekly Letter from “Blanche” London, May 14.

Royal Academy Private View.

….For the rest it’s portraits, portraits all the way. First and foremost, of course, the Orpens. “Colonel Elkington, D.S.O.” drew the crowd—all the world loves a fighter these days—Lord Bryce, and Mr. Churchill, who advocates more “offensive­ness ” in the Navy now, you know, and Sir “Jack” Cowans, greatest and most popular of “transport” officers, and Mr. Asquith’s daughter;….

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The Scotsman – Friday 28 September 1917, page 5.

ROYAL GLASGOW INSTITUTE. 56th ANNUAL EXHIBITION.

…. These general reflections might be extended to portraiture by comparison of Sir James Guthrie’s admirably balanced, acutely intellectual , and richly pictorial work with the more accentuated and dramatic, but actually more photographic-like presentments , amazingly clever (Col. Elkington) or amusing (Dr E. J. Dillon ) as they are, of Mr William Orpen….

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Notes on the career of Lieut.-Col John Ford Elkington from the London Gazette:

  • The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Honorary Queen’s Cadet John Ford Elkington, from the Royal Military College, to be Lieutenant, vice A. P. A. Elphinstone, seconded. Dated 30th January, 1886. (London Gazette, 29 January 1886).
  • The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Lieutenant John Ford Elkington to be Captain, in succession to Major W. A. Campbell, Adjutant of Volunteers. Dated 25th January, 1893. (London Gazette, 7 February 1893).
  • War Office, 28th October 1916. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to appoint Lieutenant-Colonel John Ford Elkington, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, to be a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. (London Gazette, 31 October 1916).
  • R. War. R.–Lt.-Col. J. F. Elkington, D.S.O., on completion of his period of service in command, is placed on the h.p. list. 24th Feb. 1918. (London Gazette, 1 March 1918).
  • Warwick. R.– Lt.-Col. J. F. Elkington, D.S.O., having attained the age limit of liability to recall, ceases to) belong to the Res. of Off., 3rd Feb. 1921. (London Gazette, 22 February 1921).

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The Advertiser, Adelaide, Saturday 09 September 1916, page 9.

 

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Websites

http://www.elkington-1.one-name.net/Johnfordelkington.htm

https://www.priaulxlibrary.co.uk/articles/article/lieutenant-colonel-elkington-and-retreat-mons-1916

https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/40346

http://regimentalrogue.tripod.com/blog/index.blog/2362301/the-colonel-who-came-back/

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/176508-court-martial-records-of-lieutenant-colonel-elkington-1st-warwicks/

https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/26370/page/681/data.pdf

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6474709

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=I2DNDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT132&lpg=PT132&dq=Colonel+John+Ford+Elkington,+D.S.O&source=bl&ots=M1git6AViB&sig=ACfU3U0n30kIkEd9-VY4zpZLurgKnE4XTw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9rOztwevoAhXHUxUIHSszBoY4ChDoATAKegQICxAr#v=onepage&q=Colonel%20John%20Ford%20Elkington%2C%20D.S.O&f=false

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/en-gb/item/42217029_officers-full-dress-of-lt-col-john-f-elkington

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/49653/49653-h/49653-h.htm

https://monlegionnaire.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/a-soldier-of-the-legion-john-f-elkington/

https://monlegionnaire.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/elkington-of-the-legion.pdf

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002947/19170507/007/0002

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000098/19170505/128/0008

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000671/19170507/055/0003

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000540/19170928/139/0005

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000033/19160909/303/0010

https://www.priaulxlibrary.co.uk/articles/article/lieutenant-colonel-elkington-and-retreat-mons-1916

 

Blog post by Ortolan, Robert Elkington and Dominic Lee.