The following biography is the work of Gail Brumfitt, who is working through the “mystery names” which appear on the list published in the “Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser” of 22nd December 1922. Like several others on the list, Robert had recently emigrated to Australia, which accounts for the ambiguity surrounding his commemoration in the West Kirby and Hoylake area.
Robert Rice Owen
Very little is known about Robert since he does not appear on a census after 1891. His Australian service records state that he served for one year with the English Yeomanry and then transferred to the Light Horse (South Africa) for one year, after which he must have emigrated to Australia where virtually nothing is known of his life apart from that he at one time resided at Manly.
Robert was born in Claughton, the middle child of five born to Robert (1827-1900) and Charlotte Owen née Summerfield (1841-1928). He was baptised at St John, Birkenhead on 12th February 1876. His parents were living at 18 King Street Claughton, and his father was a Commercial Traveller. Robert had four siblings, Griffith Summerfield Owen (1872-1964), William Robert (1874-1925), Charlotte (1878-1881), and Ada Harriet (1881-1954).
Robert Owen (senior) was born in Wales, the son of Hugh Owen and Charlotte Summerfield was born in Chatham, Kent the daughter of Army Paymaster, William Summerfield and his wife Mary.
In 1881 Robert’s family were living at 18 Kings Mount, Grange where they employed one servant and in 1891 they had moved to 15 James Street and again employed one servant. Robert (senior) died in 1900 and in 1901 Charlotte is living at 45 Clifton Road, Birkenhead along with Griffith, William and Ada but Robert (junior) had left home. By 1911 Robert’s sister, Ada had recently married Frederick Stewart Darragh, a Master Gardener, and they were living at Glenside, Leasowe. Her widowed mother Charlotte was living with them.
Robert enlisted at Victoria Barracks, Randwick 18 August 1914, where his service records reveal that his next of kin was his widowed mother Charlotte, then living at 15 Hilbre Road, West Kirby.
He had a distinguished career moving up the ranks from Private to Sergeant. Most of Robert’s military service was in France. On 20 July 1916 Robert received a mild gunshot wound to his arm and face and was sent to recuperate in Grantham. He was posted to France again on 11 November 1916.
His service records show that on 2 September 1918, during heavy shell fire at Peronne, a shell landed right in front of Robert and he fell. His comrades going to his assistance ascertained that there were no marks on him and so it was evident that he was killed by concussion.
Birth: 1875 in Claughton
Death: 2nd September 1918 killed in action age 43
Address: 18 Kings Mount, Birkenhead (81), 15 James Street, Birkenhead (91), Manly NSW Occupation: Rock Chopper, Civil Servant
Unit: 56th Battalion, Australian Infantry (AIF)
Number and Rank: Sergeant 295
Medals: 1914/15 Star, British War, Victory
Commemorated and Buried: WK; Australian War Memorial, Commemorative Area Panel 162; France: Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension I.C.3
Sources: CWGC, SR, BR, PR, Census: 81, 91