HARRY CLYDE ROWLAND
This biography was written by Victoria Doran
Harry Rowland was a young man from a long established local family who enlisted early in September 1914 and fought in several of the main battles of the Western Front during well over 3 years in the army.
Rowland family grave at St Bridget, West Kirby
Harry Rowland was born in the spring of 1895 in Eaton Road, West Kirby, the youngest of the 6 children of John Rowland (1860-1926) and Margaret Price (1860-1901). His father was the parish clerk for West Kirby. The family always lived in Eaton Road, but moved house within the road on several occasions. Two of Harry’s brothers died (aged 2 and 4 years old) before he was born, so he knew 2 older brothers and an older sister.
His mother died before he was 6 years old, and sister Gertrude Annie Rowland (1886-1963) seems to have stepped up to run the household. Another tragedy struck when his eldest brother John George Rowland (1883-1907), who had been working in an accountant’s office, died at the age of 24. All the family and many ancestral graves are to be found in the churchyard at St Bridget, West Kirby.
John Rowland had worked as a gardener before becoming parish clerk. His immediate ancestors, John Rowland (1833-1875) and John Rowland (1808-1851) were labourers of various types in West Kirby, but Harry’s great great grandfather Thomas Rowland (1774-???) was a farmer in Little Meols, that is, the western part of what is now called Hoylake.
Margaret Price came from Rhayader, Radnorshire deep in rural Wales where she was a middle child in the large family of John Price (1821-1886) and Anne Jones (1826-???). Her father had started as an inn keeper in Rhayader, but soon became a farm labourer and then a general labourer. By 1881 Margaret had taken the route of many young Welsh girls and moved to West Kirby as a household servant. She worked in Kirby Park for the Cross family.
John Rowland and Margaret Price were married on 5 March 1883 at St Peter, Liverpool. Possibly Margaret was by then working in Liverpool. The parish register has not survived so evidence is lacking. They never seem to have lived anywhere but West Kirby.
Harry’s surviving brother, gardener Ernest Roy Rowland (1893-1972) was the first to join up on 1 September 1914 when he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards. He was certainly tall enough at 5 ft 11 in, but must have fallen short in other respects as on 19 September he was discharged as ‘inefficient’. After this Ernest must have learnt how to drive a motor car as, on 11 December 1915, he enlisted in the Army Service Corps (Motor Transport) as a Driver (stating that he had never served before) and within a month was in France. He served on the Western Front for the rest of the war, suffering one short term minor injury.
Harry enlisted on the 9th September 1914. At the time he was working for a green grocer and was nearly 5 ft 10 in tall, with grey eyes and light brown hair. Although initially assigned to the Cheshire Regiment, within 5 weeks he was posted to the South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers) as Private 15612, 8th Battalion.
South Lancashire Regiment cap badge
After training Harry landed in France on 28 September 1915 with his battalion. They spent almost the whole of the next year in the trenches without taking part in any major battles, but suffering the usual steady attrition of casualties, mud, rain, cold etc.
On 3 September 1916 they joined the Battle of the Somme, taking part in the attack on Thiepval Ridge. On 21 October 1916 they stormed the Stuff and Regina German trenches during the Battle of Ancre Heights.
After regrouping and returning to the the trenches over the winter, Harry was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal on 30 May 1917. He was next involved in the Battle of Passchendaele, taking part in the Battle of Messines on 8 June 1917. This time they took their objectives with relatively few losses. The 8th Battalion was part of the 25th Division.
On 1 August 1917 the 25th Division relieved the 8th Division on Westhoek Ridge. The conditions were appalling with waist deep mud and continual pounding by artillery. Harry received a gun shot wound on the 4th August and went to hospital. The rest of the battalion had to endure the conditions for a fortnight before they were relieved.
Harry’s wound was not a Blighty one, and he returned to his battalion on 26 September. By now the battalion was severely under strength, and Lloyd George was refusing to send many reinforcements in order to try to reduce the casualty rate. The 8th Battalion, South Lancashires was one of several battalions disbanded early in 1918, so that the remaining battalions could be brought up to fighting strength. Harry had 7 days home leave in February 1918. On his return, he will have gone to a base depot to await his next posting.
By 23 March 1918 the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment was astride the Cambrai / Bapaume Road in support of rearguard actions across the 1916 Somme Battlefields during the German Spring Offensive. They then retreated around Puiseux and Gommecourt, suffering 373 casualties.
Harry was promoted to full Lance Corporal on 29 March and posted to the 2nd Battalion to help bring it back up to strength. He was soon in action again.
In April 1918 the Germans resumed their attacks with the Battle of the Lys. On 10 April the 2nd Battalion was at Ploegsteert, then on the 11th they beat off 2 attacks at Neuve Eglise. On the 13th and 14th they were forced back to Ravelsberg.
A map showing these places near Ypres can be found here
Harry was wounded during this action along with many of his companions. The 2nd Battalion suffered 662 casualties during the retreats of April 1918.
Harry was moved to hospital in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France where he died of his wounds on 21 April aged just 23 years old. He lies buried in Boulogne Eastern cemetery.
Boulogne Eastern Cemetery
Harry’s grave; unusually the grave markers are laid flat on the ground
Harry is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial, on the Rolls of Honour in St Bridget and St Andrew churches, and on the family grave at St Bridget; all in West Kirby.
Birth: Apr 1895 at Eaton Road, West Kirby
Death: 21 Apr 1918 at hospital in Boulogne sur Mer, Pas de Calais, France
Addresses: 54 Eaton Road, West Kirby (01); 3 Eaton Road, West Kirby(11); 10 Eaton Road, West Kirby (14)
Units: Cheshire Regiment; 2nd & 8th Battalions, South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales Volunteers)
Numbers and Ranks: 17230, Private (Cheshire Regiment); 15612, Lance Corporal (South Lancashire Regiment)
Medals: 15 Star, Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Boulogne sur Mer, Pas de Calais, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Bridget & St Andrew churches, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, SR, MC, DA, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, RSE