Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry
Charles Henry Lowth - Company Serjeant Major 14634
This page is dedicated to the memory of Charles Henry Lowth who died on 25th December 1917 in France.
Charles Henry Lowth was born on 3rd October 1881 in Chorlton upon Medwick, Manchester; the third of 7 children of Thomas Johnson Lowth and his wife Eliza Davis. He died on 25th December 1917 in France, one of the many millions of men who lost their lives in World War 1. It seemed sad for him to have died and all but these bare facts remembered, so I've tried to find out at least a little about his life until his untimely death aged just 36.
Charles' father Thomas Lowth was a first cousin of my great great grandmother Emma Lowth. Thomas Lowth was born in Lincolnshire but moved to Manchester where he met and married Eliza Davies in 1877. They settled in the Ardwick area where Thomas worked as a railwayman. By 1891 the family were living in Herbert Street and Thomas was working as a Railway Lurryman (lurry being an old word for lorry); the oldest boy Thomas was also working by then, aged just 11, as lurry boy. The table below gives the details from the 1891 census.
|The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the|
|Civil Parish||Municipal Borough||Municipal Ward||Urban Sanitary District||Town or Village or Hamlet||Rural Sanitary District||Parliamentary Borough or Division||Ecclesiastical Parish or District|
|Ardwick||Manchester||Ardwick||Manchester|| || ||East Manchester||St Silas|
|No. of Schedule||Road, Street and Name of House||Name and Surname of each person||Relation to Head of Family||Condition||Age||Profession or Occupation||Where Born|
|215||64 Herbert St||Thomas Lowth||Head||Married||32||Railway Lurryman||Lincs, Sempringham|
| || ||Eliza Lowth||Wife||Married||35|| ||Salop, Ironbridge|
| || ||Elizabeth Lowth||Dau|| ||12||Scholar||Lancs, Ardwick|
| || ||Thomas J Lowth||Son|| ||11||Railway Lurry Boy||Lancs, Ardwick|
| || ||Charles H Lowth||Son|| ||9||Scholar||Lancs, Chorton Medlock|
| || ||John A Lowth||Son|| ||7||Scholar||Lancs, Manchester|
| || ||Nelly Lowth||Dau|| ||5||Scholar||Lancs, Ardwick|
| || ||William Lowth||Son|| ||3||Scholar||Lancs, Ardwick|
| || ||Annie E F Lowth||Dau|| ||1|| ||Lancs, Ardwick|
By 1901 the family were still in Ardwick, but Thomas Lowth had become General Secretary of the General Railway Workers Trade Union. He held this position from 1898 to 1913. He would later become the MP for Ardwick from 1922 until his death in 1931. The photo below is of Thomas Lowth around 1911. Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
Charles Henry Lowth however was absent from the family home in 1901; he would have been about 20 and presumably working elsewhere. By 1908 though Charles Henry had met and married Emily Rhodes. In the 1911 census Charles and Emily were living in Openshaw, Manchester with 2 small children and Charles was working as a Turkish Bath attendant. They had twin boys later that year but sadly neither survived infancy.
Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914 and within a month Charles had volunteered and joined the army. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website revealed that he ended up as a Company Serjeant Major in the 11th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and that his service number was 14634 and that he is commemorated at the Grevillers British Cemetery in France. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here
Fortunately Charles' service records survive (many WW1 service records were destroyed by a bomb in 1940). They show that he signed up in Stockport on 3rd September 1914 aged 32. He was initially enlisted as a Private, but within days he was promoted to Corporal and then Serjeant. Whether this was because he had some previous army experience, or just showed promise, we may never know. By September 1915 he was a Company Quartermaster Serjeant and would have been in charge of supplies. His final promotion to Company Serjeant Major came in July 1916. Not only did he get promoted rapidly, but he was awarded two important medals for his bravery - the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the French Croix de Guerre. The DCM was the second highest award for gallantry after the Victoria Cross. His family were no doubt very proud of his achievements.
I only have the one photo of Charles, but his service records give a bit more of a description of him. He was apparently just over five foot 5, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His medal roll index card indicates that he first went to France on 25 September 1915. The medal rolls show a soldier's name, rank and what medals they were entitled to. Due to copyright issues, I don't think I can reproduce the image of the medal card, so instead I've transcribed it:
|Lowth||11 Ches R.||C.Q.M/S||14634|
|VICTORY||J/2/101B6||1832||D of W 25.12.17|
|15 STAR||J/2/1134||683|| |
| || || || |
|Theatre of War first served in||(1) France|| |
|Date of entry therein||25.9.15|| |
You can now look at the War Diaries for regiments in WW1, which can give a real insight into what the men went through. War Diaries were kept as a daily record of operations, intelligence reports and anything else that was going on for a given battalion. I've looked at the War Diaries for the 11th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. The war diaries rarely mention ordinary soldiers by name, but Charles did get mentioned for his DCM. This is the entry from the end of June written by Major Hargreaves. I've transcribed the bit that mentions Charles, plus the last few days of June, a slightly quieter period after the Battle of Messines earlier that month.
June - 1917
|Place||Date||Hour||Summary of Events and Information||Remarks & references to Appendices|
| ||15/6/17||On the night of the 15th the strong points were taken over from the 8th Border Regiment by three Companies of this Battalion, the 4th Company remaining in its original position in OWL TRENCH. Battalion Head Quarters also moved to OWL TRENCH.|
The last two days in this sector were considerably quieter and very few casualties were caused. Total casualties 2 officers. 49 other ranks.
| On the night of the 17th the Battalion was relieved by the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers and returned to PIONEER CAMP. In this camp the time was spent in cleaning up and general refitting.|
On the 23rd the Battalion started to march to the BOMY area by a series of night marches. On the night ot the 23rd/24th the Battalion marches to SEC BOIS via BAILLEUL-STRAZEELE-STRAZEELE STATION. On the night of the 24th/25th the march as continued to the MERVILLE area via VIEUX BERQUIM and NEUF BERQUIN.
|ST HILAIRE||26/6/17||On the following night the battalion marched via ST VENANT - BUSNES - LILLERS to ST HILAIRE and on the night of the 26th/27th the Battalion reached its destination marching through WESTREHEM - FEBVIN PALFART - FLECHIN - BOMY.|
|Reclinghem||27.6.17|| ||RECLINGHEM. The 28th was devoted to cleaning up and on the 29th training was started.|
| || || ||Awards gained in the attack on Messines Ridge|
Bar to D.S.O.       Lieut. Col. W.K.EVANS, D.S.O
Military Cross.   Capt & Adjutant W.H.McKERROW; Captains R.LEB. NICHOLSON, W.A. WILLIAMS
2nd Lieutenants   L.F.CLIST, C.WRIGHT
D.C.M                 Coy.Sgt Major C. LOUTH - Sergt FLETCHER - Lance Corporal SWASH
Military Medals                 21.
Casualties:   KILLED.           2nd Lieut. C.F.S.RHODES                                 32 O.R.
D.O.W.             2nd Lieuts C.POTTS, E.R.THOMAS                 11 O.R.
WOUNDED.     Capt. J.A.KNOWLES. M.C. - 2nd Lieuts S.C.STEVENS, F.LATHAM, B.MOLYNEUX,
P.R.DIGBY, T.C.MORGAN, H.W.BALLANCE,
Missing:                     5 O.R.
Strength at beginning of Month       41 Officers 920 O.R
Strength at end of Month                 32 Officers 718 O.R
Reinforcements Received                 1 Officer 26 O.R
Signed H. Hargreaves, Major for Lieut Col. Commanding 11th Cheshire Rgt.
Charles' regiment were heavily involved in the Battle of Messines Ridge in early June 1917 and that seems to have been when Charles earned his DCM. The Battle of Messines was ultimately a prelude to the much larger Battle of Ypres which started the following month.
Newspapers of the time were always keen to report acts of bravery and medals awarded to their local men. The first mention I found was from the Manchester Evening News in July 1917, when it was reported that Charles had been awarded the Croix de Guerre in May and the DCM two weeks later for capturing a battery of German guns. Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
His citation for the DCM appeared in the papers again in August 1917, perhaps this was when the award became official? Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
Charles survived over 3 years of the war, 2 of those at least fighting in some of the bloodiest battles in France. Sadly of course he didn't make it through the whole war. He must have been injured at some point in December 1917. I can't find any exact reports of when he was injured, but he succumbed to his wounds on Christmas Day 1917 at a Casualty Clearing Station. His family presumably wouldn't have found out for a few days, so probably spent that last Christmas blissfully unaware of his death. The news did of course eventually reach home and the newspapers announced his death in January 1918. This report is from the Manchester Evening News. Much was made of his DCM and of his father being a prominent political figure in Manchester. Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).
In 1918 Emily received Charles' few personal possessions back from the army. They consisted of a note book, a wrist watch, cap badge, whistle and strap. The final documentation of Charles' life is the Army Register of Soldier's Effects. These registers show what monies were owing to the soldier at the time of his death - in the case of Charles, his widow Emily received just £20.17s.7d in 1918, plus the War Gratuity of £22 the following year. It was not much to show for his sacrifice. Emily did at least receive a war pension for herself and their two children.
Charles is buried in the Grevillers British Cemetery in northern France. He is presumably commemorated on a war memorial in Manchester too, but I've not managed to track that down yet. Many thanks to Charles' grand-daughter for supplying the photo of him in uniform. If anyone has any other information relating to Charles Henry Lowth, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to e-mail me
In researching Charles' final days, several sites have been invaluable, so I've included links to some of them here.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is a great site to start with to give you the basic details you would need to then start digging deeper:
The National Archives at Kew now hold a huge number of records, many of which are available online, but it is well worth a visit down there if you can make it:
If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Nicky Rowberry 2017
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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry