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William Gray Elmslie

Rank: Captain

Lifetime: 1885-1956

William Gray Elmslie was the older brother of Kenward Wallace Elmslie, who was commemorated on the war memorial in St John the Baptist’s, Hampton Wick and who has an entry on the “Others who fell” section of this online war memorial. William Gray Elmslie served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the war and survived. His younger brother, Gordon Forbes Elmslie, also served in the war and survived. He also has an entry in the “survivors” section of this online war memorial.

William Gray Elmslie was born on 24 December 1885. His parents were Kenward Wallace Elmslie, an insurance adjuster, and Annie Maud Elmslie. The family had originally lived in Willesden where his sister, Glayds Maude was born in 1884 and then Twickenham where his younger brothers, Kenward Wallace and Gordon were born in 1887 and 1890 respectively. By 1911 they had moved to May Place, Broom Road, which at that date was within the postal district of Hampton Wick.

Like his brothers, William Gray Elmslie attended Cheltenham College. He was at the school from September 1899 until summer 1905 and made his mark there. He was a College Prefect and also in the first Rugby XV. After Cheltenham he went on to study at Pembroke College, Cambridge where he enjoyed a glittering career. He was President of the Cambridge Union in 1908.

After he graduated, he qualified as a barrister and then emigrated to Edmonton, Canada. During the war he served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

After the war he lived in Colorado Springs, USA. In World War 2 he enlisted in the American Field Service (the “AFS”) and drove ambulances in the Middle East. The AFS had been founded by A Piatt Andrew, a former director of the US Mint and Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard, who had sailed to France in December 1914 to drive an ambulance in Paris for an organisation set up by the American Hospital in Paris. He re-organised the service from April 1915 to provide an ambulance service nearer the Frontline as a separate organisation. When the US entered the war, in 1917, this organisation changed its name to the AFS and at the end of the year it was formally absorbed into the US army. The AFS was reactivated as a volunteer ambulance force after the start of the war in 1939 with its first units sailing out of New York in March 1940. William Gray Elmslie was living in Washington D.C. when he enlisted into the AFS at an unspecified date in World War 2.

At some point he married Constance Pulitzer (1888-1938) who was the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer, millionaire US Newspaper Owner and founder of the Pulitzer Prize. They had three children: Vivien, Cynthia and Kenward Elmslie. His son, Kenward Elmslie, was a well known editor and publisher of the New York School of writers and artists. A poet himself, he also collaborated with composers on operas and musicals. William Gray Elmslie died on 17 May 1956 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery & Conservancy, Bronx, Bronx City, New York in the Pulitzer family plot. We are most grateful to Cheltenham College for supplying details of both William Gray Elmslie’s school record and his subsequent career.

Gordon Forbes Elmslie

Rank: Captain

Lifetime: 1889-1955

Captain Gordon Forbes Elmslie was the youngest brother of Kenward Wallace Elmslie, who was commemorated on the war memorial in St John the Baptist’s, Hampton Wick and who has an entry in the “Others who fell” section of this online war memorial. Gordon Forbes Elmslie served with the East Surrey Regiment during the war and immediately afterwards. His oldest brother, William Gray Elmslie, also served in the war and survived. He also has an entry in the “survivors” section of this online war memorial.

Gordon Forbes Elmslie was born on 19 July 1889. His parents were Wallace Kenward Elmslie, an insurance adjuster, and Annie Maud Elmslie. The family had originally lived in Willesden where his sister, Gladys Maude, was born in 1884. Afterwards the Elmslies moved to Twickenham where Gordon’s two older brothers, William Gray and Kenward Elmslie were born in 1885 and 1887 respectively. By 1911 the family had moved again to May Place, Broom Road, which at that time was in the postal district of Hampton Wick.

Like his brothers, Gordon Forbes Elmslie, attended Cheltenham College where he enjoyed a glittering career. Whilst a pupil of the school, during the period from May 1904 until July 1908 he rowed in the College boat in 1907-8 and was in the Rugby XV in 1907. He also won the Ladies Prize in 1908 and was a College Prefect.

After Cheltenham he went onto Jesus College, Cambridge where he had an equally illustrious career, winning a Half-blue for Hurdles in 1909-10.

During the war and immediately afterwards he served in the East Surrey Regiment rising to the rank of Captain. he saw service in Mesopotamia in 1915; in Aden in 1917; in Egypt in 1918 and in the Afghan War in 1919.

After the war he maintained a close connection with his old school- serving as Joint Honorary Secretary of the Cheltonian Society from 1922 until 1945 and as a member of the College Council from 1930 until 1940. He died in Walton on the Hill on 1 April 1955.

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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