1 Several documents held in his file in the National Archives

2 Notice of death sent to MoD on the day he died

3 Medical History (National Archives, Kew)

4 Attestation Form (National Archive, Kew)

5 Obituary (26 February 1919 edition)

6 Application for a temporary Commission (National Archives, Kew)



Uttoxeter Advertiser



Eldest son of the Rev. Walter Elliker and Mrs. A. E. Elliker



5.(Father’s name)


Where born






When born







1 Darwin Terrace, Derby (parents)





South Raglan Barracks, Devonport (self)






Constance Norah Elliker of Cornard Parva Rectory, Sudbury, Suffolk.






A little son Ralphie, who was less than 12 months old





Employment Before Joining up

Bank Clerk




3, 4

Where enlisted






Former service

2638, Corps of Royal Fusiliers - Public Schools Bn.





No. 2 Company, 21st Service Battalion, Royal Fusiliers






Royal Engineers






21st Service Bn Special Brigade






Acting Captain










Service Number






Date of Death

Wednesday 19 February 1919





Age at time of death






Where Killed or died

Royal Military Hospital, Devonport





How he died

Illness (Influenza and bronchial pneumonia)





Location of Grave or Memorial

Uttoxeter Cemetery, Grave Old. I. 765.











William Harold Elliker’s father was the Vicar of Sutton-on-the-Hill and had previously lived in Uttoxeter, where William was born.

His wife was the youngest daughter of the Rev. W. H. Symonds, Vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Derby. They married in 1915.

He was also a grandson of Mrs. Caunt of Uttoxeter.

William Elliker’s story is remarkable. He rose from the rank of Private to take a commission and become a Captain in less than four months.

The story of what happened after his death is no less remarkable, not least because it shows how widows were treated by the War Office. He either left no will, or no will was found, and this presented his widow with serious difficulties. His estate could not be released until a will was probated or Letters of Administration were granted.

Consequently, Constance Elliker was left in poor circumstances for a full six months, with their little son Ralphie to support, while the wheels of the War Office turned slowly. It would have been bad enough to have lost her husband, but she suffered the worry and hardship of financial difficulties as well. She might have had to wait for even longer, too, had it not been for the fact that her father visited the War Department in person and managed to persuade the authorities to expedite their case.

As you read this story, you will see that William conducted himself impeccably throughout the period of his service, and you will then see how the authorities dealt with Constance after his death. Consider what he might have said if he had known what we know.

Sadly, the Ellikers’ story was repeated countless other times throughout the length and breadth of Britain.

Most of the information which we have obtained about Captain Elliker has been determined from his official records, which are kept in the National Archives at Kew.

We are very fortunate that these records have survived because the archives were hit by incendiary bombs during the Blitz in the Second World War. Many records were destroyed, and William Elliker’s came close to being amongst them. Some of the pages in his file show evidence of fire damage:

William Harold Elliker enlisted as a Private in the Royal Fusiliers (Public Schools Battalion) on 15th September 1914 in Derby, agreeing to serve for three years or the duration of the war, whichever was the longer. He was 25 years and 3 months old.

His enlistment papers give a number of details which allow us to build up a picture of what he looked like:


5ft 11½ ins



145 lbs

Girth when fully expanded


Range of expansion





Dark brown



Church of England




He was promoted to Company Sergeant Major on 24th October 1914 and was then discharged from the ranks to take up a commission in on the 1st January 1915 in the 21st Service Battalion. His records in the National Archives show that up to this point he had served for a total of 109 days.

William was a Company Sergeant Major when he applied for a temporary commission for the period of the war. The original application form is kept in the National Archives in Kew. It is dated 7th January 1915 and bears his signature.

The fact that he took a temporary commission would have implications for his wife after his death because it affected both the gratuity paid and the pension granted to her. Note that at the time of his applying for this commission he was still a bachelor.

After receiving his commission he served in France for two years with the battalion and when the battalion was broken up he was transferred to the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers.

In 1917 he returned to England suffering with Trench Fever and Shell-shock and he remained on home service for the remainder of the war. In his final post he was in charge of a company of the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers at Devonport.

As you will see, this was to have implications on his wife after his death. It was common for death duties to be waived in the cases of men who died on active service. The fact that William had been engaged in home duties at the time of his death meant that his wife was not automatically granted this waiving of the duties. We do not know whether or not she was, but we do know that the War Office made a deposition to the Inland Revenue to seek clarification. We do not know what the outcome was.

William and Constance married in about the spring of 1917 and he died two years later from pneumonia, which developed from influenza. Constance was left with a little son Ralphie, who was less than 12 months old.

William’s death was reported to the War Office by means of a memorandum, which was sent on the day he died:

  “In accordance with Para 1872 King’s Regulations, I regret to report the death of Captain W. H. Elliker R.E. of this Unit who died at Devonport Military Hospital on Wednesday 19th February 1919.”

Constance Elliker was shown virtually no consideration by the authorities following the death of her husband. His file in the National Archives contains a disgraceful series of correspondence which shows that while she was left struggling financially with a little child, the authorities were taking an inordinately long time to settle his affairs. Meanwhile they pursued Constance for sums of money owed to the Officer’s Mess, the Company Contingent Fund and the Company Cash account. The sums involved must have been merely a drop in the ocean to them, but were evidently a lot of money for Constance at the time.

Eventually her father was moved to visit the Ministry of Defence in an attempt to expedite the process of releasing William’s assets so that Constance could access them. This is their story:

On 25th February 1919, just six days after Captain Elliker had died, the Committee of Adjustment met to determine his property and identify any outstanding debts owed to the Regiment: They concluded that he had outstanding debts of £9-9s-4d.

During the next three days they had contacted Constance and she had undertaken to settle these debts. She sent the following undertaking on the 26th February, which must have been done by return of post:

“In accordance with Section 5 of the Regimental Debt Act 1893, and as Executor of the above deceased Officer, I hereby undertake to meet the preferential charges against the estate of the above deceased Officer.

Constance Norah Elliker

Date Feb. 26th 1919

St. Paul’s Vicarage, Derby.”

The following memorandum to the President of the adjustment committee was  on the 28th February 1919. This was still only nine days after he had died:

  “I beg to state that on visiting the late Capt. Elliker in hospital, he informed me that he owed the Company Contingent fund £6; also £1 to the Company Cash a/c. On balancing the accounts I found a deficit of £6 on the Contingent fund & of £1:1:11 in the Company Cash account”.

It seems almost unthinkable that they were troubling a dying man with such matters!

The fact that he died intestate presented his wife with difficulties because his estate could not be released until the authorities had been satisfied that no will existed.

Constance’s father wrote to the war office on 4th March 1919 asking about any gratuity due to William’s estate:

  “Dear Sir

Capt. W. H. Elliker (the late)

Special Brigade R.E. Devonport

I am writing for Mrs. Elliker, the widow of the above, to inform you that Capt. Elliker died in the Military Hospital at Devonport from Influenza and Bronchial Pneumonia on Wednesday Feb. 19th and to ask you what gratuity is due to the Estate of the late Officer.

I am

Yours faithfully

W. H. Symond

Vicar of St. Paul’s Derby”


William Harold Elliker is buried in Uttoxeter Cemetery. His funeral was attended by a large detachment of military personnel from Lichfield and at the end of the service volleys were fired over his grave and the ‘Last Post’ sounded on a bugle.