Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

Thomas William Rowberry - Private 25199

This page is dedicated to the memory of Thomas William Rowberry who died on 16th August 1917 in Belgium.

Thomas William Rowberry was born in 1884, the only child of Thomas Rowberry and Ellen Tipton. He died on 16th August 1917 in Belgium, 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 and what happened to him in the war.

Thomas was born on 5th October 1884 in Stoke Edith, Herefordshire, to Thomas Rowberry and Ellen Tipton, who had married in nearby Stoke Lacy in 1878. Ellen already had a daughter Agnes, born in 1873 before she married Thomas. Agnes eventually adopted the surname Rowberry and would have been Thomas William's half sister. In 1891 the family were living in Yarkhill where Thomas senior was working as a farm labourer. The table below shows a transcription from the 1891 census:

The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the
Civil Parish Municipal Borough Municipal Ward Urban Sanitary DistrictTown or Village or HamletRural Sanitary District Parliamentary Borough or DivisionEcclesiastical Parish or District
Yarkhill      YarkhillLedburySouth HerefordshireYarkhill
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeProfession or OccupationWhere Born
68 HidefieldThomas RowberryHeadMarried 38Farm LabourerHFDS, Much Cowarne
   Ellen RowberryWifeMarried 39 HFDS, Stoke Lacy
   Agness RowberryDau 17unemployedHFDS, Pencombe
   Thomas RowberrySon 6ScholarHFDS, Stoke Edith

By 1901 the family had moved to nearby Tarrington. Thomas senior was now described as a cattleman on a farm and Thomas William, by now aged 17, was working as a carter on a farm. The table below gives a transcription from the 1901 census for Tarrington.

The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of thePage 11
Civil Parish Ecclesiastical Parish County Borough etc. Ward of Municipal BoroughRural District Parliamentary Borough or DivisionTown or Village or Hamlet
TarringtonTarrington   LedburyRossTarrington
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeProfession or OccupationWhere Born
74 HignhamThomas RowberryHeadMarried 47Cattleman on FarmHerefordshire
   Ellen RowberryWifeMarried 48 HHerefordshire
   Agness RowberryDauSingle27 Herefordshire
   Thomas RowberrySonSingle17Carter on FarmHerefordshire

Thomas William's mother Ellen died in June 1910 in Hereford hospital. By 1911 Thomas William and his father were living together in Plaistow, Ledbury; both still working on a farm. Agnes had ended up living up in Manchester in the workhouse, although she must have returned to Herefordshire soon after as she married there in 1912. Thomas senior died in Bromyard workhouse in February 1913. Both Thomas & Ellen were buried in Much Cowarne.

So by the outbreak of war in 1914 Thomas William was alone. I don't know at what point he joined up, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website revealed that he became a Private in the 6th Battalion of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment, that his service number was 25199 and that he was commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here

You can now look at the Medal Roll cards from the first world war online. These 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.

NameCorpsRankReg No.
RowberryK.S.L.IPte25199
Thomas. W   
Medal.RollPageRemarks
VICTORYJ/1/102 B92482Decd 16.8.17
BW & VM retd. (died intestate)
BRITISHdittoditto 
15 STAR   
  
Theatre of War first served in 
Date of entry therein 

The index card indicates that he would have been entitled to two medals. The British Medal was awarded to servicemen who served in a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The Victory Medal (Allied Victory Medal) was awarded for service in any operational theatre over the same time frame. His military service records don't seem to have survived so I don't know when he enlisted. According to the medal card though, he doesn't seem to have been eligible for the 1914 or 1915 Star medal, suggesting he enlisted some time after that.

On the front of the medal card it says that his British & Victory medals were returned and there is a note on the back of his medal card which says "Oi/c (Officer in charge) K.S.L.I Records Requests authorisation for disposal of medals 20.7.1922". So presumably with his parents both dead and his sister married and possibly untraceable, there was no-one to accept his medals. It seems very sad, that they ended up being destroyed.

You can now download most regimental war diaries from WW1, so I've looked at the War Diaries for the 6th Battalion of the K.S.L.I. The K.S.L.I were heavily involved in the Battle of Langemarck, which was part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. It had rained through much of August and with constant shelling, conditions must have been dreadful. It was in part of this battle that Thomas died. War Diaries were kept as a daily record of operations, intelligence reports and anything else that was going on for a given battalion. For the period of 16th to 18th August, the diary names 5 officers killed, with 39 other ranks killed in action and 5 missing from the battalion. Thomas William Rowberry was presumably one of these. The officers who died are all detailed in the diary, but the ordinary soldiers are not, just their total numbers of dead and wounded given.

Normally soldiers' deaths were reported in the local newspapers. I've not managed to find any such reports for Thomas, perhaps because there was no family to notify the newspapers. The only one I've found was this one in the official War Office Weekly Casualty List, which recorded his death over a month later. Image THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Image reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

The last piece of evidence for Thomas is the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects. This showed his possessions consisted of just 10.3, which was made up of 7.3 of his own money, plus 3 war gratuity. Normally a beneficiary is listed for any monies to be sent to, but sadly for Thomas there was no-one.

Thomas is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium. Tyne Cot is one of the Memorials to the Missing, for men who have no known grave. Thanks to the kindness of Marga Rowberry and her son we now have this photo of Thomas' name on the Tyne Cot memorial.

Researching Thomas has proved more difficult than some of the soldiers I've looked at. With so little family, he seems to have been all but forgotten. I haven't even found out which War Memorial (if any) back in England he is commemorated on. And of course I have no photo of him yet, which is the thing I'd most like to track down. So if there are any relatives out there, please do get in touch, it would be lovely to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

In researching Thomas' 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:

The British Newspaper Archive holds digitised images of newspapers from all over Britain. New pages are added weekly and it can be a great way of adding to your research:


If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

Nicky Rowberry 2017

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry