Private 27601 John Rowley

Killed in Action on Thursday, 22nd April 1915, age 25.
Commemorated on Panel 18 - 24 - 26 -30 of Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

15th Bn., Canadian Infantry.

Husband of Mrs John Rowley of 11 Bisley Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Born: West Bromwich, Enlisted: Valcartier, Canada, Resident: Toronto, Canada.

First landed France & Flanders, February 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the St. Mark's Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1595739/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
67 Pikehelve Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Thomas Rowley (24, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Hannah (21, born West Bromwich), and their son: John (7 months, born Dudley).

1901 Census
143 Leabrook Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Rowley (35, Puddler, born Tipton), his wife Hannah (31, born West Bromwich), and their 4 children: John (9, born West Bromwich), Emma (7, born Tipton), Thomas (4, born Tipton), and Joseph (1, born Tipton).

In 1911 John could not be traced, it is possible that he had already emigrated to Canada. His parents were still in Leabrook.
1911 Census
143 Leabrook Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Rowley (47, Baller at Puddling Furnace, born Tipton), his wife Hannah (41, born Tipton), and 5 of their 6 surviving children of 11: Emma (18, born Tipton), Thomas (14, Errand Boy in Tube Works, born Tipton), Joseph (11, School, born Tipton), Hannah (6, born Tipton), and William (1, born Tipton).

Personal Data

J Rowley appears on the St Mark's Memorial, even though he was born in West Bromwich and had emigrated to Canada. John was resident in Tipton in 1901 and his parents Thomas and Hannah still lived in Tipton.

John Rowley attested with the Canadian Infantry on 22nd September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec, he was born on the 7th September 1889 in Birmingham, making him 25 years old. His next of kin was his wife, Mrs John Rowley of 11 Bisley Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was employed as a Cement Finisher and was already active in the Militia. He gave his mother's details as Mrs Hannah Rowley of Leabrook Road, Tipton.

He was 5 feet 6 inches tall, had a 36-inch chest, fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and was Presbyterian.

Action resulting in his death

The 15th Canadian Battalion, as part of 3rd Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division, landed in France during February 1915. They first went into the line in March 1915 near Fleurbaix, then moved to the Ypres Salient in April and faced its first real test during the defence of St. Julien beginning on 22 April.

The Canadians saw the first use of chlorine gas by the Germans. They were on the right flank of the French troops who were forced to retreat, allowing the Germans to take the village of Pilckem and the Pilckem Ridge. The left flank of the Canadian 1st Division was therefore unsupported and in danger of being encircled by the Germans, however they held their position.

The 15th Battalion were slightly to the right of the breach in the line, but their men were still in action. A number of their men were sent to assist the 10th Battery of Canadian Artillery, also some of their men were in the counter-attack on Kitchener's Wood at 11.30pm, and they also were subject to German artillery fire on the portion of the front line they held.

The Toronto Evening Telegram of 25th January 1916 had an article about the death of Private Thomas Boulton, who was mortally wounded in the incident which killed John Rowley. "About April 23rd about 4pm, we had been shelled continuously for a long time, but at last a large shell burst right in our trench. In the next section to me I heard a yell and groaning. One man had been blown to a pulp (Jack Rowley), our section corporal wounded, and Tom had four inches of flesh blown from the inside of his right thigh........ We buried him (Tom) in my blanket in the same grave as Jack Rowley."

So we know that John Rowley was killed in action by an artillery shell. He was initially buried, but his grave was subsequently lost. His grave was never identified, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 20th August 1915
Extract from above article...
John Rowley (23), of the 46th Canadian Highlanders. Killed in action April 18th (Editor: date incorrect).