Captain Harvey Wilfred Warwick ROWE MC
Killed in Action 20 August 1916
Harvey Wilfred Warwick ROWE was the second son of Lydia Ada ROWE, born in Wandsworth in 1896. She had married his father Charles Courtney Rowe, a “journalist and author” on 13 July 1893. It was Charles’ second marriage, having been divorced by his first wife in 1888, citing adultery and physical abuse. Then, he was described as a jeweller. He had been born in Plymouth in 1851. At the Census in 1891 he was living as a lodger at 18 Oakhill Road, Wandsworth, the home of the Shepherd family – one of the daughters being the 26 year old Lydia Ada, who was at a governess training school.
By 1896, Charles and Lydia had ultimately settled at 24 Southey Road, Wimbledon. The couple had three boys. The eldest was Henry James Courtney, born in Wandsworth in 1895, and Harvey’s younger sibling was Basil Affleck, born in 1898 in Wimbledon.
At the Census of 1901, the family circumstances had markedly changed. After being widowed, Lydia Shepherd, Lydia Ada’s mother had moved with her 80 years old mother Lydia Affleck to 14 Rusthall Avenue, Acton Green. Lydia Ada and her three sons had joined her. However, Charles Courtney Rowe her husband was to be found at 24 Southey Road, Wimbledon which had been the family’s address in earlier years of the marriage. Charles now described himself as a commercial traveller. We cannot tell what had caused the apparent separation, but by the November of 1901, Charles had died. Thereafter, Lydia Ada and her children remained at Rusthall Avenue with her mother and grandmother. Ten years on, in 1911, both Henry and Harvey Wilfred, 17 and 15 respectively, had started work as insurance clerks. Basil was still at school. Their great grandmother had died.
It is not clear when Harvey would have entered the army after the outbreak of war. However, the London Gazette confirms that he would have, after officer training, been posted from the reserve to 10th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, in 7th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division as a Second Lieutenant on 7 July 1916. In the Somme, near Bouzincourt, at 12:35 p.m. on 9 October the 10th Battalion attacked Stuff Redoubt, with D and B companies forward, advancing behind an “intense” barrage, with C Company in support and A Company in reserve. By 12:42 p.m. it had captured the north face of the redoubt and pushed advanced posts forward to the north-east and the old second position trenches but failed to reach the final objective on the high ground to the north. The battalion took 127 prisoners and counted 50–60 German dead. Two counter-attacks in the evening were defeated by artillery and machine-gun fire. By December the battalion had moved to the Belgian border, at Pont de Nieppe, near Armentieres. On 17 February 1917, it undertook another attack, 2/Lt Rowe leading A Company. Many prisoners were taken and there was successful bombing of enemy trenches. It is not clear in which of these two engagements Harvey Rowe was awarded the Military Cross. The citation, cited in the Gazette of 28 March reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy’s trenches. He was the first to enter the trench, and himself accounted for five of the enemy. He then organised the clearing of the trench with marked coolness and ability, with the result that heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy.”
In 28 March 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant, and to Acting Captain on 20 July. During the assault on the Bellewaerde Ridge on 31st July and following days, 10/Cheshires had been in an exposed and untenable position and the casualty figures were devastating at up to 25% of the fighting strength. It seems that Capt. Rowe was unscathed in this action but he was slightly wounded in action about 9 August.
Harvey Rowe was killed by a German aeroplane attack while in parade ground at camp behind front lines, Dominion Camp, on 20 August 1917. One Other Rank was killed with him and 20 others wounded. He was interred at Reninghelst New Military Cemetery at Plot III.A.6, near Poperinghe, West of Ypres:
“A true and gallant soldier beloved by all that knew him”
The village of Reninghelst (now Reningelst) was occupied by Commonwealth forces from the late autumn of 1914 to the end of the war and was sufficiently far from the front line to provide a suitable station for field ambulances. The earliest burials took place in the Churchyard, but in November 1915, the New Military Cemetery was opened. It remained in use until September 1918. There are now 798 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery. The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.