An outstanding First World War soldier was remembered at a special service of commemoration at Ripon Cathedral, where he has a memorial, exactly 100 years after his “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty” in battle led him to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).
Serving and former Fusiliers attended the service which honoured the memory of Lt-Col Neville Bowes Elliott-Cooper – the great-grandson of Capt J Elliott of Elliott House, now Holmefield House, Harrogate Road, Ripon, who circumnavigated the globe with Captain Cook.
Born the son of Sir Robert Elliott-Cooper in 1889 Lt Col Elliott Cooper joined the Royal Fusiliers on the outbreak of war, rising through the ranks through his leadership, daring and ability.
He had already been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross, when while commanding the 8th Battalion, he won his VC for his actions on November 30 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai. Hearing that the enemy had broken through the outpost line, he rushed out of his dug-out and dashed forward, unarmed, making straight for the advancing enemy. Under his direction, British troops forced them back 600 yards.
Badly injured in the hip and still 40 yards in front of his men, he signalled to them to withdraw, as they were severely outnumbered and suffering heavy casualties, even though this meant he would be captured. Their action, though, enabled reserves to be sent forward and hold the line. He died of his wounds as a prisoner of war aged 29 two and a half months later.
The service of commemoration was led by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, who placed the Victoria Cross on the altar. He said: “Today we commemorate a brave Fusilier, but we are bound to pay tribute to all the armed forces who over the last century have given and who today still give of themselves, risking the possibility of the supreme sacrifice, for the sake of the world’s justice and peace.
“Inspired and instructed by the bravery of Lt Col Elliott-Cooper and many like him, we give thanks for today’s brave Fusiliers and all our armed forces. We pray that a proud and too often sorrowing land might always ensure they are sufficiently well equipped to counter evil wherever it raises its head in an unpredictable world, to honour the memory of the fallen and to safeguard the peace of the world for the sake of the living. For: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. (John. Chapter 15:13)'”
The Dishforth Military Wives Choir took part in the service, singing Abide with Me and Bring him Home.
In his address Col Peter Stitt of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers described Lt Col Elliott-Cooper as a brave naval officer who could inspire his men when the situation became desperate. Following the service he said: “As fusiliers we are very proud of Lt Col Elliott-Cooper and the huge courage he showed 100 years ago today and we look to learn from his example.”
A service was also held in London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens to commemorate the life of Lt-Col Elliott-Cooper.