- Name: Wilfrith ELSTOB
- D.O.B: 8th Sep, 1888
- D.O.A: 21st Mar, 1918
- D.O.D: 21st May, 1918
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, commanding 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment, 90th Brigade, 30th Division
Near St Quentin, France 21 March 1918
21 March 1918
The First World War 1918
On 21 March 1918, the first day of the German Spring offensive (see above), there was heavy fighting around the German held town of St Quentin, about twenty-five miles south-east of the VC actions near Bapaume. 8th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimentwas in the British Line at Le Verguier, about seven miles north-west of St Quentin. The German advance surrounded the village on three sides but, such was the strength of the resistance, it was not until the following day that they secured the village itself. It was here that Lance Corporal J W Sayer displayed great bravery in its defence. Four miles southwest of Le Verguier was Marteville. East of here and north-west of St Quentin 61st Division was in the line. Second Lieutenant J C Buchan, attached 1/8th Battalion (TF) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, fought gallantly all day but his position was eventually overrun. In the same sector Lieutenant A E Ker and his men of 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, though in a hopeless position, kept a significant force of the enemy engaged for three hours before they were forced to surrender. South of here the Front was manned by 30th Division. 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment was in the line, a couple of miles due west of St Quentin, between the villages of Francilly-Selency and Savy. Just south of Francilly lay Manchester Hill with its Redoubt. As elsewhere, the forward positions were quickly overrun by the German advance and Manchester Redoubt was surrounded. However, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel W Elstob inspired his men to carry on resisting the enemy until he was killed during the final German assault at about 3.30pm. His last message to HQ was ‘Goodbye’. To the south-west of St Quentin 36th (Ulster) Division was in the line. When its forward positions were captured Second Lieutenant E de Wind, 15th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, held out until 6pm at Racecourse Redoubt, on the St Quentin-Chauny railway, near Grugies, two miles south of St Quentin. The thirty or so men left in the garrison were taken prisoner soon after de Wind was killed. Five or so miles to the south, 18th Division was in the line west of the Oise Canal around Vendeuil. 10th Battalion The Essex Regiment was left holding on to positions at Caponne Farm and Moulin Farm, supported by two artillery batteries from 83rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, C and D, commanded by Captain Haybittel and Lieutenant Ellis. At 8pm Captain Haybittel ordered C Battery to withdraw. Gunner C E Stone was one in a party of six men detailed to provide protective cover. Haybittel and Ellis were both awarded the DSO for their actions. Along most of the front, the German offensive had swept over British positions and in the south the Germans had advanced as far as the Crozat Canal, which linked the Oise to the Somme.
For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice during operations at
Manchester Redoubt, near St. Quentin, on the 21st March, 1918.
During the preliminary bombardment he encouraged his men in the posts in the Redoubt
by frequent visits, and when repeated attacks developed controlled the defence at the points
threatened, giving personal support with revolver, rifle and bombs. Single-handed he repulsed
one bombing assault, driving back the enemy and inflicting severe casualties.
Later, when ammunition was required, he made several journeys under severe fire in order
to replenish the supply.
Throughout the day Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob, although twice wounded, showed the most
fearless disregard of his own safety, and by his encouragement and noble example inspired his
command to the fullest degree.
The Manchester Redoubt was surrounded in the first wave of the enemy attack, but by means
of the buried cable Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob was able to assure his Brigade Commander that
“The Manchester Regiment will defend Manchester Hill to the last.”
Sometime after this post was overcome by vastly superior forces, and this very gallant
officer was killed in the final assault, having maintained to the end the duty which he had
impressed on his men – namely “Here we fight and here we die.”
He set throughout the highest example of valour, detemination, endurance and fine
Amendments. The following is the correct description of the Officer upon whom the Victoria Cross was conferred in London Gazette dated 9th June, 1919:– The late T./Lt.-Col. Wilfrith Elstob, D.S.O., M.C., 16th Bn., Manch. R.