HoC - Roll of Honour - William Frederick Rowson

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Lance Corporal William Frederick Rowson 260269

6th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers Monmouth Regiment

William’s parents were George Rowson, who was born in 1869 in Barnes and Margaret Selina Rowson, born in Hampton, Middlesex. In 1901, the family of 2 adults and 7 children were living at 11 Berested Road, Hammersmith. This is in the parish of St Peter’s and all the children were baptised there.

William was the second son (of 4) in a family of 7: Caroline Margaret born in 1891, Mabel Edith (1898), Winifred Mary (1893), Albert George (1894), William (1896), Reginald Harold (1898) and Hector Charles (1900). An eighth child had died in infancy.

By the time of the 1911 Census, the family, minus Caroline, were living at 6 Wavendon Avenue, Chiswick, and it is likely that this is when their association with St Michael’s church began.

George had originally worked as a grocery assistant at Green’s Shop in Barnes during his teens & later became a commercial traveller for a brewery, though none of the family followed his lead.

William enlisted in the Army as a Territorial member of the 13th (Princess Louise’s) Kensington Battalion, London Regiment, (regimental no 782199), signing up for 4 years on 12th September 1915, at Kensington. His home address was given as 6 Wavendon Avenue, Chiswick.

William was to serve in the army for 2 and a half years, much of this time in active service in northern France. He had been transferred early on to the 6th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers. Despite minor transgressions – misbehaviour for which he was punished- early on in his military career, he was not held back and did well to be made Lance Corporal. However, it is to be remembered that he was in Northern France through periods when casualty rates were at their highest. Sometimes promotion reflected the urgent need to replace ranks lost in vast numbers and in short periods.

In the St Michael’s Parish Magazine of the period, there was reference to William’s being in training, in 1915. Significantly, in the September/October 1916 edition, it was mentioned that he had been wounded in action and, following his recovery, was returned to active service in Flanders.

William was gravely injured on April 10th 1918. This is likely to have been when his battalion mounted an attack on Ploegsteert, Belgium. In 24 hours, 80 of his colleagues were killed. It is recorded that he had suffered a head injury. The fighting continued until 15 April, when the battalion was withdrawn, having suffered in excess of 400 casualties.

William was transferred to Etaples. This town had been strategically chosen for its comparative safety from enemy land attack and good rail links. It housed 16 military hospitals. In 1920, the town was awarded the Croix de Guerre in recognition of the fact that so many inhabitants had had to give over their homes to the war effort.

It was at Etaples that William died of his wounds 16th April 1918 aged 21.His injuries were recorded as sustained in Flanders, whilst serving in the 6th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers, Monmouth Regiment.

His remains are interred at the Etaples Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais in France. This was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in France. The majority of the 10,792 Commonwealth burials being of UK soldiers (8819). His death was recorded in the St Michael’s Parish magazine, June 1918.

Fortunately, William’s brothers survived the war. Albert had served in the army, Reginald served in the Machine Gun Corps & Hector is recorded as having been a cadet in 1919 in the newly formed RAF.

Most of the surviving siblings stayed in the Chiswick area in their teens and twenties, but after marriage generally moved away, mostly to the south coast of England. However, one adventurous soul (Mabel), when married, went by boat to Calcutta, though it appears she returned in later years & died in Battle, Sussex.