Elliot Hotblack was one of the most decorated and well-known of those celebrated in The Tank Museum’s exhibition. To commemorate the 130th anniversary of his birth on the 12th March 1887, this article takes a closer look at the circumstances of his injuries, giving some idea of what he endured during his time on the Western Front.
Elliot Hotblack was renowned throughout the Tank Corps for his work as a reconnaissance officer. A vital role, it frequently took him into and past the front lines without the protection of a tank.
In consequence, he was awarded four gallantry awards, Mentioned in Despatches four times and was wounded on five occasions.
In the Line of Duty
Elliot Hotblack began his military career on the 10th September 1914 when he was granted a Temporary Commission as an Intelligence Officer. Two days later he was in France. He transferred to the tanks on the 29th September 1916.
The first of Hotblack’s wounds, recorded as ‘slight’, was sustained on the 21st May 1915. He was shot in the left hand by a sniper during the Battle of Festubert.
On the 9th April 1917, the first day of the Battle of Arras, Hotblack suffered head wounds. He was evacuated to Number 1 Red Cross Hospital at Le Touquet. Despite a suspected fractured skull, he escaped from hospital in order to return to his comrades, rather than risk being sent back to the UK.
Struggling for 5 miles through a snow storm, he reached a British headquarters. Despite the blood seeping through his bandages Hotblack assured several officers that he was feeling fine and on his way back to Tank Corps HQ. As he recalled later: ‘Both statements seemed to them to be improbable’.
Hotblack earned his third wound stripe three months later on the 7th July 1917 ‘East of Ypres’ in Belgium when he was injured in the leg.
At Quesnoy Farm on the 15th May 1918 Hotblack was again wounded in the head. He was taken to Number 12 Stationary Hospital where for a fortnight he was too unwell to sit up for long periods or eat properly. He was discharged on the 10th June.
On the 29th September 1918 Hotblack was aboard a tank during an attack at Quennemont Farm when it was hit by German fire. Four of the crew were killed and Hotblack was wounded in the eyes by bullet splash. Despite his injuries, he and the survivors fought on for several hours. He was temporarily blinded, but by the 3rd October he could see well enough to write.
Hotblack’s luck had finally run out. He was returned to the UK for further treatment on the 12th October, his war over.