Remembrance

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Private Giles Victor Rowles  14th Battalion 1402 AIF

Died of wounds at the Battle of Lone Pine, Gallipoli, age 19 years.

Buried at sea August 10 1915, 2 miles off Mudros Harbour, Lemnos.

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Born in Hollinfare, Cheshire, England 1896, son of Mary Ann Williamson Rowles and Charles Rowles. Remembered by his step-siblings on his parents’ gravestone in Hollinfare cemetery.

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Also worth remembering, in Britain, 16-year-olds are still recruited into the armed forces. War veterans call for a re-think on recruitment of sixteen-year-olds

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No Glory in War 1914-1918

#NoGloryInWar  @WarNoGlory

No Glory in War, Only Brave Men Wasted

An updated version of an earlier post to honour the valour of men and boys who fought at Gallipoli.

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My Great Uncle Giles (Victor) Rowles left little trace of himself on this earth. There is only this childhood photograph inside my great grandmother’s locket. For one thing he lived so briefly. Nineteen years. For another, he does not even have a grave. He was dropped from a hospital ship into the Mediterranean, two miles east of Mudros Harbour off the island of Lemnos. This happened around 10pm on the 10th August 1915, two days after admission to the ship with gunshot wounds. I know this only from the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) records that the Australian National Archives have posted on the internet. I thank them for their dedication and care in making these records so freely available.

I have written what little I know of Giles Rowles in two earlier posts, but I have reason to repeat it.

On October 15th 1914, Cheshire born Giles (who at some point and for unknown reasons changed his name to Victor) enlisted in the 14th Battalion AIF in Melbourne, and then went directly for training at Broadmeadows. On 22 December 1914 he embarked for Egypt on HMAT ‘Berrima’, arriving there for further training in January 1915. In April the 14th Battalion took part in the landing at Gallipoli, and so began the hell-on-earth siege that achieved nothing but the pointless deaths of thousands of brave young men – Australian, New Zealanders, French, British and Turkish.

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Landing at Anzac Cove 1915.  Photo: localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au

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Conditions at Gallipoli were unspeakable; it was a case of death by sniper, grenade or disease. Giles survived long enough to also take part in the August Offensive. This involved the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps moving up the coast from where they had been dug in for months to attack two peaks of the Sari Bair range while the British and French forces defended Helles. It was during this valiant but disorganised offensive that Giles was shot. On the 8th August 1915, and listed as Private Victor Rowles no. 1402, he was admitted to the hospital ship Devanha with gunshot wounds. Two days later he was dead.

There are several mysteries here. The first is how did this English lad end up volunteering with the AIF in Melbourne?

The last certain record I have of Giles on English soil is from the 1911 census. He is listed as 15 years old and working as a junior clerk for a shipping broker, Guthrie, Heywood and Co, in Cardiff. He is living with his widowed aunt, Louisa Rowles of 10, Despenser Gardens, where his older cousins, Beatrice a spinster, and John, a shipping agent also live. He is named after his uncle, Louisa’s late husband, Giles, a mariner. The Rowles family, it seems, have generations of seafaring connections.

Giles’ own father, Charles, was a retired ship’s captain, and thereafter a pilot on the Manchester Ship Canal. He was my great grandmother’s second husband. As a young widow with three small children and a stepson, Mary Ann Williamson Shorrocks (née Fox) ran the Old Red Lion Inn, and later the Bowling Green Inn in Hollinfare (Hollins Green), Cheshire. Her father, George Fox had taken up the license in 1894, a year after selling up the family farm of Callow in Derbyshire. At this time Mary Ann would have still been in mourning for her first husband. He had died in his late thirties, a bankrupt Bolton shuttle manufacturer.

It seems that the Fox family had secured the inn on Mary Ann’s behalf to ensure she had an income. It stood beside a then busy thoroughfare to Manchester, overlooking the new Ship Canal, which doubtless explains how the pretty young widow soon came to catch the eye of one Charles Rowles.

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Mary Ann Williamson Fox at Callow Farm, Hathersage, Derbyshire taken before her first marriage to Thomas Shorrocks, a Bolton spindle manufacturer. Photo taken in the 1880s when Mary Ann was around 18 years old.

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The sea captain was much older than Mary Ann, a widower with two grown-up daughters. They married in 1895, but by 1903, when Giles was only seven years old, Charles Rowles lay buried in Hollinfare’s quiet little cemetery. Six years later, Mary Ann joined him. She was forty six. She had died of heart disease at her stepson’s house in Moss-side, Manchester, where her simple-minded sister, and the three Shorrocks children (including my grandmother) also lived.

Whether Giles went to live with his Rowles relatives before or after his mother’s death is not known. Certainly he would have finished at Hollinfare village school at twelve years old, and the photo in the locket could well date from that time. It seems likely that the chance of a secure career in the shipping business prompted the move.

By the time Giles enlisted in Melbourne, he had changed his name to Victor. On the enlistment papers he calls himself a sailor.

The Broadmeadows medical officer records him as being eighteen years and seven months, 5 feet 5 and a quarter inches, and 135 pounds in weight. His complexion is described as ruddy, his eyes green and hair brown. His only distinguishing marks are two vaccination marks on his left arm. The reason he has given Aunt Louisa Rowles as his next of kin is also a mystery. She was not in fact a blood relative, and I know for a fact that his Shorrocks half-siblings adored him. It must have been they who had the tribute to Giles added to his parents’ gravestone in Hollinfare.

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On his death, records say a brown paper package containing Giles’ few effects – a handkerchief, pipe, cigarette case, manicure-set, letters and photos, was later sent to Aunt Louisa, followed by his three service medals, a memorial scroll and plaque. All these items are now lost. He is nonetheless commemorated in his ill-fated name of Victor at Lone Pine Memorial, Turkey and on the Australian War Memorial at Canberra. On his parents’ and grandfather’s stone in Hollinfare it says:

“Pte Giles son of the above Charles and Mary A Rowles, who died of wounds received at the Dardanelles on August 10th 1915 aged 19. He hath done what he could.”

And why am I posting this story once again? Well surely someone knew Giles Victor Rowles? He must have had mates – at sea, at Broadmeadows, at Gallipoli. Did not some girl love him? Doesn’t his name occur in a fellow private’s letters home? Is there not some diary entry that mentions him? Doesn’t anyone know what happened to his medals?

The photo in his mother’s locket shows a boy with determination. His gaze is direct. He looks cherished. And it is his photo in the locket, and not one of his half-siblings. On the other side of the locket, delicate strands of hair from all five children – Robert (stepson), Mary, Lilian, Thomas Shorrocks and Giles – are woven together. Mary Ann would have been able to identify each child from the varying shades of blond and brown. This small locket, then, contains the only physical evidence of Giles Rowles’ existence.

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POSTSCRIPT

Since writing this post I have tracked down one more scrap of Giles’s brief life: a grainy photocopy image and obituary in a Cardiff newspaper. Here he is then after he enlisted with the 14th Battalion AIF. What a boy he still looks. A good brave boy, like those lost on both sides at Gallipoli in this pointless, bloody, ill-conceived offensive.

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As the firing increased and the boats grounded, the original Anzacs staggered into battle on rocky footings, weighed down with heavy packs and wet clothing. Ahead lay the impossible scramble up steep hills to the heights they would come to know so intimately. Ahead, also, was that deadly dance of bravery, madness and fear that characterised the confused fighting of the first days at Gallipoli.

The story of the next 240 days was heat, cold, disease, flies and death. In all, 8,709 Australians and 2,701 New Zealanders perished. Many more soldiers from Britain, France, India, Ireland and Newfoundland also died, while the number of Turkish dead and wounded across the peninsula is estimated at more than 150,000.

 

Mark Bowers on the landing at Gallipoli 25 April 1915, The Guardian 23 April 2015. See his time-lapse photos of Anzac Cove HERE

 

#nogloryinwar

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

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Seeking Silence in the making of BBC Radio’s Soul Music: Remembrance

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Out in the Shropshire fields below Wenlock Edge with Maggie Ayre, BBC Radio 4 Producer of Soul Music, and the Armistice Day 2014 edition A Shropshire Lad

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So what is this all about? What has this writer to do with the making of a Radio 4 programme, broadcast today at 11.30 am? You  may well ask. It is one of those situations where one thing leads to another, and this in itself is apt, given the topic of the blog post that prompted my connection with the programme.

Last November I wrote a piece called  Songs from an Inland Sea: “On Wenlock Edge”.  It looked at the way the work of one artist can inspire the works of other artists. It was also about the place where I live, Wenlock Edge, the twenty miles of upflung fossil sea that features in the poems of A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.

This cycle of 63 ballad type poems, first published in 1896, has indeed inspired other works, in particular the music of composers Vaughan Williams  and George Butterworth. (You can hear excerpts of their works, and download a Guttenberg Press copy of A Shropshire Lad  on the link above.)

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“’’Tis time, I think by Wenlock town/The golden broom should blow…”  ASL XXXIX

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Last spring Maggie Ayre contacted me, saying she had read my post and was struck by the connections I had made with the Shropshire landscape. She said she was researching a programme that would possibly feature George Butterworth’s  Rhapsody, an orchestral work that expands his song version of the Housman poem Loveliest of Trees. She wondered if I would like to take part in the programme should it go ahead. Struck by a fit of ‘writer’s recluse’, I replied rather doubtfully that I might.

Soul Music is a long-standing Radio 4 series. Each programme usually features one piece of music, its performance intercut with the stories of several people for whom the work has special resonance. Today’s broadcast has further meaning, one that touches all of us: it commemorates Armistice Day.

I have written elsewhere about A E Housman and George Butterworth – Quoting Creatively: the “Out of Africa” Connectionbut today, on 11th November, the connections are war-specific. Many of the Housman poems relate to the loss of young men going to war, of promising youth cut short. Indeed, sales of the work took off because of this, first during the Boer War, which in 1901 claimed the life of Housman’s younger brother, Herbert, and again during World War 1 when copies went to the front with many a recruit. Butterworth was one of those recruits. In 1911-1912 he had set eleven of the poems to music, and in 1913 seen the premier of the Rhapsody at the Leeds Festival. But by August 1916 the composer was dead, just another of the millions of casualties of World War 1. He was killed at Pozières, on the Somme, aged 31, his creative promise cut off in its prime.

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But back to Soul Music. I did not hear again from Maggie Ayre until the summer. Then in June, on a hot summer’s day, she came to my house in Much Wenlock and, since the rumble of traffic on Sheinton Street is ever intrusive, she suggested we drive up on to Wenlock Edge, and find a quiet spot to talk about Butterworth’s Rhapsody while looking out across the Shropshire landscape. It seemed a lovely idea.

And so began our pursuit of silence across the countryside – silence, that is, from traffic, aircraft, chain saws and farm machinery. Who would have thought it would be so hard? It was not even harvest time. We drove over and behind the Edge and into the valley you can see in the next photo. We walked along farm tracks, and up and down fields of wheat. It was very hot. Always there was the grind of something mechanical resounding off the hillsides. Of course there would have been plenty of rural noise in Housman’s day – the rattle of carts, shouts of many farm labourers, the blasting of limestone at Wenlock Edge’s great quarries, but by now our pursuit of quietness was beginning to emulate A Shropshire Lad’s most poignant theme: the longing for the unobtainable, “the land of lost content.”

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Finally there was silence, apart that is from a buzzard’s call and the humming of bees, and so we sat down on the sun-baked ruts of a wheat field path, and Maggie put that big microphone near my nose and we began. By which time of course, my mind was in a whirl, and everything I’d thought to say dispersed to the four quarters. But in the end, enough was apparently said for Maggie’s purposes. (I should add that I was only one of several participants who include students from Bromsgrove School, where Housman was a pupil; they had recently been performing the Butterworth-Housman songs for a school concert.)

As we tramped back along the farm lane to the car, the quietness was broken by a bird singing in an ash tree. I think is was a robin. It stopped us in our tracks. We listened as it sang and sang. It was a moment of true remembrance: the notion of peace when the bombardment ceases. It is something we need to hang on to, and hang on to for dear life. It is the best and only reason why all European countries, or all humanity for that matter, should stand together, and stop pursuing pointless, ruinous, life-wasting conflicts.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

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Not a Flanders poppy, but a wild poppy nonetheless, and quite extraordinarily it is flowering today, 11th November, in the field behind our house.

Remembering my own Great Uncle, Private Giles (Victor)  Rowles, who died at Gallipoli, aged 19 years and was buried at sea off Mudros Harbour in August 1915.

https://tishfarrell.com/2013/09/15/looking-for-giles-aka-private-victor-rowles-1896-1915/

https://tishfarrell.com/2013/11/11/thinking-of-gallipoli/  

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Soul Music BBC Radio 4  A Shropshire Lad

The Housman Society

#nogloryinwar