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Kenward Wallace Elmslie

Rank: Lieutentant

Lifetime: 1887-1914

Elmslie

Lieutenant Kenward Wallace Elmslie of the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards (Special Reserve) was killed in action on 4 November 1914. He has no known grave but is commemorated at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He is not listed on the Hampton Wick War Memorial but his Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry refers to him as the son of Mr and Mrs Kenward Wallace Elmslie of May Place, Hampton Wick.

The family may have been a long established military family. It had at least one ancestor with a military record as there are a number of references in Indian periodicals to a previous member of the family, with exactly the same name, being arraigned in Calcutta as an ensign (junior officer) in 1834 on a charge of conduct unbecoming a gentleman, then court martialled at Cawnpore on 9 February 1839 and finally dying (aged 30) at Neemuch in 1842.

Thanks to the detailed research conducted by Lloyd’s Underwriter, John Hamblin, into all the casualties commemorated on the War Memorial at Lloyds of London and available as an on-line record as Lloyd’s Remembrance and thanks also to the Archives of both Cheltenham College and King’s College, Cambridge, we have a wealth of detail on the life and career of Lieutenant Kenward Wallace Elmslie. He was born on 21 May 1887 in Twickenham, the second son of Kenward Wallace Elmslie, an insurance adjuster, and Annie Maude (nee Funnell) Elmslie. The Elmslie family moved to May Place, Broom Road, Hampton Wick. Both his older brother, William Gray Elmslie, and his younger brother, Gordon Forbes Elmslie, also served in the Great War. Both survived the conflict and are commemorated as “survivors” on this website.

Kenward Wallace Elmslie was educated first in Hurst Court Ore, near Hastings, and then, from September 1901 until July 1906 at Cheltenham College. Whilst at Cheltenham College he won the Ladies’ Prize in his final year at school and also served as a College Prefect. His name is included on the brass memorial in the College Chapel to the 675 Old Cheltonians who died in the Great War. During the War, the Principal of Cheltenham College wrote to the families of all former pupils who died in the conflict to express his condolences and also to request a photograph for a Memorial Album. Cheltenham College has kindly allowed a copy of Lieutenant Elmslie’s photograph to be included as part of his entry on this website.

According to John J. Withers in A Register of Admissions to King’s College Cambridge 1797-1925 (second edition 1929), Kenward Wallace Elmslie was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge, on 8 October 1906 where he studied Law, obtaining a 3rd Class in Law Tripos Part 1 in 1908 and graduating with a BA in 1909 and an LLB in 1911. After graduating, he qualified as a barrister, joining the Inner Temple and was an Associate Member of Lloyds.

At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at May Place with his parents, his older sister, Gladys Maude (27), who had been born in Willesden, and his younger brother, Gordon (21), who was also working in the insurance industry as a Clerk and insurance adjuster. Gordon, like Kenward, had been born in Twickenham so the family can only have moved to May Place some time after 1891.

He was commissioned as a Probationary 2nd Lieutentant in the 4th Dragoon Guards (Special Reserve) on 12 May 1909. Subsequently, his commission was confirmed on 21 December 1909 and he was promoted to Lieutenant on 12 May 1914. As a member of the Reserve he was mobilised shortly after the outbreak of war and sent to France on 16 September 1914 where he was placed in charge of a machine gun detachment.

On 30 October 1914 the 4th Dragoons were ordered to support the 1st Cavalry Brigade’s attempts to hold Messines. Having suffered a massive shelling by the enemy during the night of 3 November 1914, they were forced to withdraw to Wulverghem. The Germans, who had been reinforced, managed to break through the British line at Wulverghem. The Dragoons tried to recapture the lost position but came under shelling from German howitzers and an intense wave of German infantry attacks. Elmslie was killed by a burst of shrapnel. Sergeant George William Woodland who took over command of the machine section from him was subsequently recommended for a Victoria Cross for his actions that day (although actually awarded a DCM).

The family was notified of his death by telegram on 7 November 1914 and received letters from his fellow officers setting out the circumstances of his death, including one dated 13 December 1914 to Elmslie’s mother from Major HS Sewell who wrote:

“On the morning of November 3rd the Regiment were holding… just west of Messines..one of the first shells burst over the gun your son was with, he was mortally wounded and died soon afterwards… your son was buried where he fell.”

Lieutenant Kenward Wallace Elmslie is commemorated on a number of war memorials: at the Inner Temple; in the Memorial Chapel at King’s College, Cambridge, and at Lloyds of London, as well as in the College Chapel at Cheltenham and on the Menin Gate.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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