Poppy

First World War in Headington and Marston, Oxford

Rosslyn Curzon EVELEGH (1885–1914)

Rosslyn Evelegh

Rosslyn Curzon Evelegh was born in Eccles, Lancashire on 13 May 1885. He came from an army family: his father Frederick John Evelegh (born in Quebec in Canada in 1852) and his grandfather Frederick Charles Evelegh both rose through the army to the rank of Colonel. Rosslyn’s mother Moriet Frances Creagh (born in Butterant, Tipperary, Ireland in c.1860) was the daughter of John Bagwell Creagh of Ballyandrew, Co. Cork and Emily Victoria Wolseley, and the sister of another Colonel, Arthur Gethin Creagh.

Rosslyn’s parents were married in Aldershot on 8 July 1884 and had two sons:

  • Rosslyn Curzon Evelegh (born in Eccles, Lancashire on 13 May 1885)
  • Eliott Nial Evelegh (born in St Clement’s, Oxford on 17 December 1890 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church in Old Headington on 8 March 1891).

When Rosslyn was born in 1885, his parents were evidently based in Eccles; but by 1890 they appear to have moved to St Clement’s in Oxford, where their younger son was born, and by the time of his baptism in early 1891 they were living in Headington (which was closer to Cowley Barracks).

At the time of the 1891 census Rosslyn (5) was paying a visit with his parents and younger brother to his grandfather Frederick Charles Evelegh, who was retired from the army and lived at 5 Landsdowne Road, Wimbledon with his five spinster daughters and six servants.

Rosslyn Evelegh was fist educated at Hinwick House near Wellingborough, and then in 1899 entered Rugby School.

In 1900 Evelegh’s father went off with the 43rd Oxfordshire Light Infantry to serve in the South African War, but soon after arriving in Cape Town he was taken prisoner. By early 1901 he was back in England, and the census that year shows him as a Lieutenant-Colonel on half pay, aged 48, living at “Village House” in Temple Cowley with his wife and two servants. Both his sons were away at boarding school: Rosslyn (15) was at Rugby, and Eliott (10) at Hinwick House Preparatory School in Podington, Bedfordshire.

Rosslyn Evelegh left Rugby in 1902 and went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst to train as a career soldier. He was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 10 October 1903 after their return from India, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 30 December 1905.

From 1906 to 1908 Rosslyn was A.D.C. to his uncle, Major-General Creagh, in Mauritius. His father Frederick John Evelegh died while he was away, on 9 March 1907. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, and is described on his gravestone as “late commanding 1st Royal Garrison Light Infantry”.

Evelegh was invalided home from Mauritius in 1908, and rejoined his regiment in England in 1909. Around this time his widowed mother Moriet came to live in the village of Headington Quarry, and in 1909 and 1910 she is listed in Kelly’s Directory at a house called “The Boundary”, and then from 1911 to 1916 in Elderwick, The Ridings at the foot of Shotover.

She appears to have been away at the time of the 1911 census. Evelegh, now a Lieutenant, was based at Shorncliffe Camp at Elham in Kent at the time of the 1911 census, while his younger brother Eliott (20), who was serving as a Second Lieutenant in the army, was based at Medway Barracks.

Poppy Rosslyn Curzon Evelegh was promoted to Captain on 22 March 1914, and in the First World War he continued to serve in the ill-fated 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He went to France in 1914 with the First Expeditionary Force, and fought in the Retreat from Mons and the battles of the Marne and the Aisne.

On 14 September he saved sixteen wounded Germans from being burnt alive in a farmhouse which had been set on fire by German shells: the danger was so great that leave was refused for more than two or three of his own men to accompany him.

Evelegh’s grave

Two days later, on 16 September, he was wounded in five places, but continued to command his Company and look after his men.

Just three days later, on 19 September 1914, he was killed in action at Soupir, near Vailly, on the Aisne, being struck over the heart by a piece of shell while seeing his men into shelter in a cave. He was 29 years old, and was the first Headington man to die in the First World War.

He is buried in Soupir Churchyard (C. 4) in France. The photograph of his grave (left) was kindly supplied by British War Graves. The text reads simply:

[Emblem of the OBLI]

CAPTAIN
R. C. EVELEGH
OXFORD & BUCKS. LIGHT INF.
19TH SEPTEMBER 1914

There is a memorial to Captain Evelegh and three other members of his family in the Royal Garrison Church at Portsmouth

 

He has a “Memorial” Chair in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry regimental chapel in Christ Church Cathedral (detail below).

 

Evelegh chair

Below: Rosslyn Evelegh is also remembered on his parents’ grave in Rose Hill Cemetery

Evelegh on parents’ grave

Evelegh is listed on the stone plaque in the porch of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, and also has a special metal wall tablet inside the church with the OBLI emblem (below):

Evelegh brass

 

TO THE BEAUTIFUL MEMORY OF
A BELOVED SON AND FAITHFUL SOLDIER
ROSSLYN CURZON EVELEGH
CAPTAIN THE 52ND (OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE)
LIGHT INFANTRY, AGED TWENTY-NINE.
KILLED IN ACTION IN THE BATTLE OF THE AISNE
AT SOUPIR, NEAR VAILLY, FRANCE
ON THE 19TH OF SEPTEMBER 1914.

This memorial on the Database of the Imperial War Museums: Capt. R. C. Evelegh

Administration of his will was granted in London to Evelegh’s widowed mother, Moriet Frances Evelegh, on 18 April 1916, and he left £600 15s. 7d. His country of death was recorded as “France or Belgium”.


Postscript

Quarry memorial

Rosslyn’s mother
  • Mrs Moriet Frances Evelegh moved away from Headington in about 1917. She died at the age of 92 on 27 November 1952, 38 years after her son, and was buried with her husband in Rose Hill Cemetery (see grave below).
Rosslyn’s brother
  • Eliott Nial Evelegh remained in the army and became a Colonel in the Royal Engineers. He was living in Hanborough when married Augusta Evelyn Rosemary Aspinall in the Clitheroe registration district in 1925. She died at the age of 22 in 1926 in Hartley Wintley, Hampshire. His second wife was Dorothy Mary Wheeler (born 10 December 1893) and they had two sons:
    • George Frederick Rosslyn Evelegh, born in about 1930. He was killed at the age of 29 on 2 March 1960 while on duty as an engineer, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery with his grandparents.
    • Robin Evelegh, born in Madras on 23 November 1932. He rose to the rank of Colonel, commanding 3rd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland. In 1958 he married (Elizabeth) Gabrielle Mary Rose Ritson, and they had two sons and a daughter. He died aged 77 on 15 May 2011 (obituary).
    Rosslyn's brother Eliott Nial Evelegh died on 12 February 1964 and his second wife Dorothy on 11 April 1969, and they too were buried in the same grave in Rose Hill Cemetery as his parents and son.

Evelegh family grave


See also

Back to Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry roll of honour

Back to War Memorials page on Headington Community Website