Christopher Douglas Elphick
Private, Honourable Artillery Company
Christopher Douglas Elphick lived in Dulwich and was a student at Alleyn’s until 1904. During his school years, he was known to be an incredibly hard worker and was renown for his talent as a writer, coming in First Place in the School's ‘Seniors Over 14’ writing competition. After leaving school, Christopher found employment as a clerk with the Prudential Insurance Company and married his wife in June 1915. He continued to work for Prudential until deciding to enlist in the war effort in 1916, joining the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) as a Private after being found fit for service.
In August 1916, Christopher had completed his military training and had received orders to report for service overseas on the Western Front. Shortly before leaving, his wife gave birth to a baby boy, named Ronald Douglas, who Christopher was only able to spend a small amount of time with before having to leave for France in November 1916.
After arriving on the Western Front, Christopher was sent for service in France with the HAC and in 1917 was involved in his first major action as part of the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt. This battle formed part of the larger Arras offensive which the Allies had hoped would produce a decisive breakthrough. Instead, operations in the area were slow and costly. On 17th May, the HAC were stationed near Bullecourt, holding the recently gained village and preparing for the possibility of a counter-attack. This came soon after as the German forces quickly re-grouped and attacked the British positions, hoping that they would retreat. The British and Australian forces were able to hold off the attack, though this came at an incredibly high cost. The HAC lost 43 men in this battle alone, including Christopher whose body was never found. He remained listed as Missing in Action for two years before the War Office presumed that he had been killed in action.
With no known grave, it seemed certain that Christopher would join the large amount of men who had been lost in No Man’s Land. However, in 2011, a surprise discovery by a French Farmer revealed the remains of 4 HAC boys who fought in the First World War had been found near Bullecourt. Christopher was identified as one of these individuals as a result of the initials he had engraved on his ring. 2nd Lieutenant John Harold Pritchard was also identified as one of the bodies through his personalised jewellery. However, the identity of the remaining two HAC soldiers has yet to be discovered. After correctly identifying the body, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission began to look for the relatives of the fallen soldiers and after three years of searching, his two grandsons, Martin and Chris Elphick, were finally located. The brothers both attended the memorial service held for their Grandfather at the HAC Cemetery near Arras. Christopher Douglas Elphick was buried in 2013 with full military honours and over 300 people attended to the service to pay their respects.
The reburial of Christopher Douglas Elphick was covered by the British media and this unique story generated a new wave of interest in the war in England, inspiring a real desire to preserve the memory of the fallen of the First World War. This resulted in a waiting room at King's Cross being named, ‘The Elphick Room’, an apt tribute to an ordinary, young London boy who worked in the City and fought in the war.
See the gallery above to view the 'Elphick Room' at King's Cross as well as a Christmas card sent home by Elphick in 1916. The gallery also contains a letter sent by Private Percy Lintott to Christopher's widow, Hilda after he went Missing in Action in May 1917. A transcript of this letter is available to view in the gallery along with images of Elphick's war medals, pocket watch and the Memorial Plaque (medallion) that was issued to Hilda as Christopher's next-of-kin. Double click these images to enlarge them.