PERCY REGINALD OWEN
This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Percy was the only one of our local men that I know of who served in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. Another promising life cut short at the age of 21.
Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry cap badge
Percy Reginald Owen was born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool in the spring of 1894, the youngest of the 4 children to survive infancy of John Arthur Owen (1852-1955) and Elizabeth Owens (1854-1939). He had two older sisters Frances Mary Owen (1884-1965) and Florence Lilian Owen (1887-1958) and an older brother John Arthur Owen (1890-???).
John Arthur Owen senior was employed as a master at Liverpool Institute from 1871 until he retired in 1914. In 1871 he was Senior Mathematics Master, and in 1911 Vice Principal of the School.
Percy Reginald Owen attended the school, and is commemorated on its War Memorial.
Liverpool Institute entrance as Percy and his father would have known it.
John Arthur Owen senior’s parents, Griffith and Elizabeth Owen were both born about 1824 in Anglesey, Wales but had moved to Liverpool before he was born. He seems to have been their eldest child. In 1851 Griffith and Elizabeth were living at 125 Dale Street, Liverpool, apparently recently married, and Griffith was a licensed victualler. By 1861 the family was living at 56 Anne Street, Toxteth Park, and Griffith was now a wine & spirit dealer. They were always well enough off to employ a servant.
By the time of the 1871 census, Elizabeth had died and Griffith and his children were living at 5b Netley Street, Kirkdale and he seems to have been a retired publican at the age of 47. John Arthur Owen senior aged 18 seems to be still at school. This census page is very faint and difficult to read. Griffith Owen must have had an adequate income to be able to allow his son to remain at school at that age. John Arthur Owen senior must have started work as a teacher at Liverpool Institute later in the same year.
On 1 July 1879, John Arthur Owen senior married Elizabeth Owens at Walton on the Hill. By the 1881 census John & Elizabeth had moved to 26 Tennyson Street, Toxteth Park and his father and younger sister Anne Jane Owen were living with them. By 1891 they have moved to 4 Bertram Road, Toxteth Park. All their children were born in Toxteth Park, so this is probably where Percy Reginald Owen was born.
By 1901 the family had moved to 28 Victoria Drive, West Kirby, so John Arthur Owen senior must have commuted daily by train to Liverpool Institute. Percy Reginald Owen must have commuted daily to Liverpool Institute with his father – no excuses allowed for being late!
They moved again before 1911, this time to ‘Glan-y-Mor’, 11 Sandlea Park, West Kirby, where John Arthur Owen senior, wife Elizabeth and eldest daughter Frances Mary all lived until they died many decades later. Frances Mary Owen never married.
Percy’s sister Florence Lilian Owen married Harold Lyon, a builder from New Brighton in 1908. This was possibly not a happy marriage as there is no trace of him after 1911, and when she died the probate was executed by her spinster sister Frances, yet she was described as a married woman. Usually this means a couple have split up. It does not seem that she had any children.
Brother John Arthur Owen was working as a bank clerk in 1911, but no record has been found of him after that date.
Percy Reginald had started work as a junior clerk for an East India merchant by 1911. It is not known what he was doing in 1914 when he enlisted in Birmingham as his military records have not survived. He joined the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. It is known that he enlisted early as he is included in the list of those already serving in the Deeside Advertiser of 6 Nov 1914.
From his medal record card, we can see that Percy arrived in France on 1 April 1915. He will have been sent as one of the replacements for the original soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. The battalion had been in France since 14 Aug 1914, and had sustained very heavy losses. Very few of the original battalion remained.
He presumably took part in the Battle of Festubert as a member of the reformed 2nd Battalion.
At the Battle of Festubert (9–16 May) – which was launched in support of the French attack south of Vimy Ridge – the 2nd Ox and Bucks were part of the second wave of the 5th Brigade attack and, during the course of the battle, suffered just under 400 casualties. The Battle of Festubert was the first British night action of the war.
The 2nd Ox and Bucks were involved in heavy fighting at Richebourg l’Avoue on 15–16 May. The 2nd Ox and Bucks and other battalions of the regiment also saw action at Loos (25 September – 8 October).
Percy Reginald Owen was missing in action at the end of the first day of the Battle at Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial.
Birth: Apr 1894 at Toxteth Park, Liverpool
Death: 25 Sep 1915 near La Bassée, France; missing in action
Addresses: 28 Victoria Drive, West Kirby (01); Glan Y Mor, 11 Sandlea Park, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: clerk to East India merchant
Units: ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
Number and Rank: 11761; Private
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated: Loos Memorial, France; panels 83-85; Liverpool Institute War Memorial; St Bridget & St Andrew, West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, SDGW, MC, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, Probate, DA, Old Liobians website