Today we remember the 101st Anniversary of the death of John Anthony Nowers, of the 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, who died this day June 7th 1917. He is commemorated on the Billingborough War Memorial.
John Nowers was born on 6th May 1889 in Market Harborough, Leicestershire to Ernest Henry Trevor Nowers, an assistant bank manager born in Teyham, Kent and his wife Minnie Elizabeth Terry, born in Lydd, Kent, who were married in 1888 in Romney Marsh.
The couple first moved to Market Harborough, Leicestershire and then by 1891 into Northampton before settling in Empringham Road Stamford by 1901 expanding their family to 4 children.
John Anthony Nowers, 1889, Market Harborough
William Arthur Nowers, 1890, Northampton
Dorothy Mary Nowers, 1893, Northampton
Geoffrey Pickering Nowers, 1904, Northampton
John was educated at Stamford Grammar School.
By 1911 the family had moved again and now were living in Tinwell House, Tinwell, near Stamford. John Anthony Nowers is now working as a bank clerk for Messrs Barclays Bank and his father is working as an assistant bank manager.
John enlisted in Lincoln on 6th September 1915 and joined the 26th battalion Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment)
John was posted with his battalion to France on 6th May 1916 to serve with the Expeditionary Force. The following shows John Movements through a potted history of the his time with the battalion and excerpts from the Battalion diary show the first month abroad leading up to their first action; The battle at Fleurs in which John witnessed the first use of tanks in a battle and he received a recommendation; and movements in the month leading up to his death.
4th may 1916 – Aldershot
3am – Battalion entrained (Three separate parties) from Farnborough for Southampton. Embarked on SS Mona-Queen and arrived at Harvre 5/5/16. Transports came over on S.S. Bellerophon.
5th May 1916 – Harvre
7.30am – Battalion marched to No1 Rest Camp, Harvre and rested.
6th May 1916 – Harvre
7.30am – Battalion entrained in two parties at the Gare des Marchandises, Harvre at Point 1 & 3
7th May 1917 – Steenbecque
9am – Detrained at Steenbecque and marched to Staple and were billeted in the vicinity.
8th may 1917 – Staple
Battalion rested at Staple
9th may 1917 – Staple
Battalion marches from Staple to new billets in the vicinity of Outtersteene
10th may 1917 – Outtersteene
7am – 1st Party of Officers and men proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to 5th Camerons
23rd May 1916 – Outtersteene
7am – Party of Officers and 1 section of NCOs and men per platoon of A & B Companies proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to the 5th Cameron Highlanders.
25th May 1916 – Outtersteene
7am – Party of Officers and 1 section of NCOs and men per platoon of C & D Companies proceeded to trenches for instruction and were attached to 5th Cameron Highlanders.
30th May 1916 – Outtersteene
5.30pm – Battalion marched from Outtersteene to new billets at The Piggerieswhere they arrived on the morning of the 31st instant, after spending the night at La Creche.
1st June 1916 – The Piggeries
In Brigade reserve at the Piggeries Ploegsteert. The day was quiet and there is nothing to record. We suffered our first casualties on active service having 2 men killed and 10 wounded on working parties.
2nd June to 4th June 1916 – The Piggeries
Remained in reserve at the Piggeries. Things were generally quiet and there is nothing to report. One of the wounded men reported above died in hospital at Bailleul.
5th June 1916 – In The Line
6am – The Battalion for the first time occupied the trenches relieving the 18th King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the line and taking over Tp 124 125 126 127. The day was very quiet. There was a little artillery on enemy’s part and enemy snipers were troublesome. There was a good deal of movement in rear and men were putting up wires along Messines Gappard Road.
June – September 1916
This was the first action seen by the new Battalion and they remained in e Ploegsteert area until the 23rd of August 1916 when they entrained at Bailleul for Pont Remys on the Somme, a journey that took 10 hours. Once there they were marched to their billets at Vauchelles de Quesnoy near Abbeville. They remained here in training until the 7th September when they entrained for Mericourt. The next few days saw the Battalion move to Becordel, close to the trenches at Fricourt.
14th September 1916 – Near Fricourt (Battle of Flers)
5.15pm – At this hour the Battalion left the camp at Becordel and marched up to the line. The journey was very tiring owing to continual stoppages on the road on account of heavy traffic. At about 9pm we arrived at the brigade dump, east of Montauban where after having received stores, ammunition etc we proceeded via Flare Lane up to our part of the assembly in front of Delville Wood, the Companies taking up their positions for the attack which was timed to commence at 6.20am. The Battalion arrived and took up their positions about 10 minutes only before the attack commenced. They had been on the march from 5.15pm the previous evening and went into attack on the morning of the 15th without a rest or sleep.
15th September 1916
6.20am – The order of battle of our own Brigade (The 124th Infantry Brigade) was as follows, Front line 21st Kings Royal Rifle Corps and 10th Queens West Surrey Regiment. The 26th battalion Royal Fusiliers were in support of the 21st KRRC and the 32nd Royal Fusiliers in support of the 10th Queens. Map Reference, French Map. France. Sheet 57c S.W. Edition 3A.
6.20am – The 21st K.R.R.C were in position for attack on Switch Trench supported by 26th R.F. (Two Companies in Edge Trench and two Companies in Green Trench). Attack commenced at 6.20am.
6.30am – The Battalion were within 80 yards of the 1st objective (Switch Trench) and found that 1st waves were advancing through our own barrage in a half right direction, the left flank being about 300 yards East of Flers village. The position of our left flank should have been on Flers Road. A halt was ordered and the mistake was as far as possible rectified.
6.50am – The left sector of 1st Objective was taken with very little opposition. Our barrage advanced and infantry followed and took up position in front of 2nd objective – Flers Trench. At this point men from various Battalions struggled bck through our barrage on the right – 2nd Lieut Gauthern (26th R.F) did excellent work in bringing men out of the barrage at great personal risk.
7.45am – Our barrage lifted from 2nd objective and the infantry moved forward and took the trench. Casualties were suffered here from hostile rifle and machine gun fire. A number of prisoners were taken. Our D Company took something like 150 prisoners. The 2nd objective Flers Trench had been severly damaged by our artillery fire.
The infantry remained in this trench until the 122nd Infantry Brigade on our left commenced to clear the village of Flers. In the attack on the first objectives the infantry was assisted by Tanks of the Heavy Machine Gun Company but by the time the 2nd Objective was taken there was only 1 tank in our sector which had not been put out of action. This tank was sent forward along the right of the Flers village to assist the 122nd Brigade and to cover their right flank. A small party under 2nd Lieut ???wood followed the tank to keep in touch with the troops clearing the village. The battalion was reorganised as our barrage moved forward and advanced in two waves.
10.15am – The tank moved forward in front of our waves to the 3rd objective – Hogs Head and Flea Trench. Our first wave was advancing, but when about 200 yards from the Hogshead Lt Col Oakley, of the 10th Queens ordered a withdrawal to Flers Trench, the reason being that the troops that had taken the village of Flers had lost all their officers and had retired. We proceeded to consolidate Flers trench.
3pm – An advance was ordered and under heavy machine gun and rifle fire they occupied the line of the 3rd objective. Shortly afterwards the line again moved forward on the signal of Lieut Colonel, the Earl of Faversham, commanding the 21st K.R.R.C. We advanced toward Gird Trench under heavy and increasing fire, but at a point about 150 yards away from our objective, when our left flank was held up by a part of the enemy who had advanced in front of their trench and lay concealed in a corn field.
5pm – An order was passed down to retire. We could not find out where this order originated and movement backwards was as far as possible prevented but men on our right flank commenced to double back and the right flank was quickly broken. The enemy immediately opened heavy artillery fire along the whole front and we were forced to withdraw to an old trench, situated about N32.a.1.5 which we found occupied by 20 or 30 men and 2 Vickers guns. We could not find anybody on either flank with whom to get into touch and therefore the men were ordered to “Stand to” until dusk. At dusk we retired to a new line which was being consolidated between the 2nd and 3rd objectives. We remained here and proceeded with consolidation.
11pm – The Brigade was relieved by the 123rd Brigade and proceeded into the support line, with the exception of a section under captain Etchells, which was in front of the line and was unable to reach the remainder of the Battalion.
16th September 1916
The Battalion remained in the support line and were subject to heavy artillery fire throughout the whole day. We were not called upon during the day by the Brigade in front. Captain Etchells and his Company were relieved on Saturday evening and in view of the heavy fighting they had done they were ordered to remain at the Brigade Dump during Saturday night and on Sunday Morning they were ordered to proceed back to the transport lines. The rest of the Battalion remained in support during Sunday and although subject to heavy artillery fire suffered no casualties.
18th September 1916
During the early hours of the morning we were relieved by the North Lancashire Regiment and the Battalion proceeded back to the transport lines and after a march and rest returned to camp at E9.
Our casualties during the action were as follows:- Officers, Lieutentants M.J. Shaw, A.S. Wright (Killed): Lieutenants G.M. Starelock, G.K.S.???wood (Died of wounds): Lieutenants Sir W.A. Blount, Bart and Y.K. Patterson, R.LW Francis and C.T. Wells (Wounded). Other ranks 33 (Killed), 58 (Missing) and 140 Wounded.
Prisoners taken by the Battalion – 2 Officers, 158 Other ranks.
As part of the above described Battle of Flers, John Nowers in the afternoon and evening, remained alone with two badly wounded officers and for which he received a Gallantry card and was recommended for the D.C.M.
The battalion stayed in the Somme area and on the 16th October they were moved behind the lines to Airaines receiving reinforcements and continuing training. Two days later they were moved to Belgium to camps on the south west of Ypres.
The battalion spent the rest of the year in and out of trenches around the Ypres and Kemmel areas.
The cycle of front line and training continued into 1917 and by April the Battalion can be found in trenches around St Eloi, south of Ypres before moving back to the training area in May.
1st June 1917 – Arnecke
After spending the night in billets at Arnecke the Battalion entrained at Arnecke station at 9:05am and detrained at Poperinghe station about 11:25am and proceeded to the camp at Micmac North taking over from 20th battalion Durham Light Infantry.
2nd – 5th June 1917 – Micmac Camp North
There is nothing of importance to record during this period. The Battalion furnished a large number of working parties for the front line system of trenches preparing for the offensive operations. Casualties 1 other rank killed.
5th June 1917 – Micmac Camp (east)
6am – At this hour in accordance with March Table, Battalion Headquarters B and D Companies moved from Micmac Camp East up into the trenches. B Company occupied front line trenchs O.2.5 O.2.6 and O.2.7 with two platoons and had two platoons in the support line within the same limits. D Company occupied the reserve line, crater Lane to Bus House Road (Exclusive) and Vormezelle sector from junction with Middlesex Lane to Vormezelle St Eloi Road.
Battalion headquarters were in dug outs in Convent Lane. The remaining two Companies moved from Micmac Camp East to Micmac Camp South.
The day passed uneventfully in the line. There was heavy artillery fire on both sides, but there is nothing of importance to record. Patrols were sent out by B company at night. They found the enemy were thoroughly cut and no obstacle. Owing to a bright moon one of the patrols which got almost up to the enemy parapet was bombed and the officer was slightly wounded.
11pm – At this hour A & C companies left Micmac Camp East and proceeded to occupy GHQ 2nd line which they did at 1:30am on the 6th June in accordance with March table.
6th June 1917 – in the line
The whole battalion was disposed in the line in accordance with March Table. The artillery duel continued throughout the day otherwise there is nothing of importance to record.
Orders for moving into assembly positions were issued and no indication as to zero hour was received.
7th June 1917 – in the line
The day of the attack on the 2nd Army front from Observatory Wood to St Yves.
According to orders issued the Battalion was supposed to be in its assembly positions 2 hours before zero (i.e. 1:10am) but owing to considerable traffic in the communications trenches and on account of the traffic it was not until 2:35am that the Battalion was finally ready and the Companies all out in their? Of waves between our own trench and the support line. Although a bit tired the men were in splendid spirits. They had been trained up to the minute. Every officer and man knew exactly what was the objective was and were ready to gain it. After 6 long weary winter months of waiting in the St Eloi Sector, overlooked by the enemy, every movement and turn observed, all ranks were assembled with one thought – To get the Bosche out of it –
All had complete confidence in our supporting artillery.
2:50am – At this hour the enemy having spotted the Battalions assembling in No Man’s Land began to send up the “stand to” signal (A rocket, bursting into golden red stars) and his artillery opened a barrage. Luckily however his artillery barrage was weak and it did not disorganise or worry the assembled men.
3:10am – Promptly to the second our artillery opened and our line of waves was went forward. About 5 seconds after zero the St Eloi mine went up with a huge blaze and a rocking of the ground. This seemed to startle the men for they seemed to turn left handed. Fortunately, this check was only momentary and the men soon settled down and were over the top and following the 32nd Royal Fusiliers who were in front in good order. The enemy defence barrage came down on No Man’s Land about 4 minutes after zero but it only caught our rear wave and caused little damage. The attack went off exactly as per schedule. The 32nd Royal Fusiliers took the enemy front trenches and at zero plus 35 minutes this Battalion were ready to advance on their objective Dammstrasse. This consisted of a sunken road which was strongly fortified and which was supposed to be a bit of a stumbling block. The ground had been thoroughly prepared by our artillery who maintained a heavy pounding barrage on the objective. The cooperation between the infantry and the artillery was excellent. The advance behind the creeping barrage was orderly and the men kept their distance and direction admirably.
4.11am – Prompt to time the barrage lifted off the Dammstrasse and our men rushed in and captured it with very little resistance and before large numbers of the enemy who had been sheltering in strong concrete dug outs were able to come out and fight. A large number of prisoners estimated between 300 and 400 were taken by the Battalion. Those of the enemy who did not choose to evacuate their strongholds were bombed out of it. The enemy, with the exception of one machine gun crew who was soon knocked out, showed no inclination to fight. He was beaten and demoralised by the intensity of our artillery fire and the suddenness of the attack.
According to orderts a line was immediately dug about 50 to 100 yards in front of the Dammstrasse (Blue Line) as close up to our protection barrage as possible and the work of consolidation was carried on with all possible speed. Enemy artillery fire was ineffective.
According to plan the 3 remaining Battalions of the Brigade came up behind us and formed up ready to advance on to the Black Line which they did. All objectives mto this Brigade were taken to the scheduled time and were held.
3pm – Exactly 12 hours after zero at 3.10pm the 24th Durhams who had come up across the ground in a magnificent waay and went through and carried on the advance and by about 5pm news was received that all objectives had been taken. Meanwhile large numbers of prisoners kept streaming back.
Officers, Killed nil, Wounded 5, Missing nil
Other Ranks, Killed 25, Wounded 161, missing 7.
During this attack of the 7th June, Acting Corporal John Anthony Nowers was wounded in the feet and whilst awaiting his turn for help was killed by a shell burst.
8th June 1917 – In the Line
2am – At about this hour orders were received for the relief of the Battalion by the 23rd Middlesex Regiment and
the 20th Durham Light Infantry. This was carried out and completed by 3:30am and the Battalion was withdrawn to G.H.Q 2nd Line near Ridge Wood.
During the day the Divisional Commander inspected the men and heartily congratulated them on their splendid achievement.
7:30pm – The Battalion moved from GHQ 2nd Line to bivouacs in Elzenhalle where they spent the night. There is nothing important to record.
Grantham Journal Saturday 30 June 1916
KILLED IN ACTION – Mrs Nowers of the Old Hall, received an official notification of Sunday that her son, Corporal J. A. Nowers (Royal Fusiliers) was killed in action on June 7th. The deepest sympathy is extended to the family.
UK De Ruvigny”s Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919
NOWERS, JOHN ANTHONY, Corpl, No. 19415, 26th (Service) Battn. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt). eldest s. of the late Ernest Henry Trevor Nowers of Stamford, co. Lincoln, by his wife Minnie Elizabeth, daughter. of Matthew Terry of Lydd, co. Kent; b Market Harborough , co. Leicester, 6 May 1889; educ. Stamford Grammar School; was employed by Messrs. Barclay & co., Bankers; enlisted 6 Sept 1915; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from 6 May 1916; took park in the Battle of Flers 15 Sept., on which afternoon and evening he remained alone with two badly wounded officers and for which he received a Gallantry card and was recommended for the D.C.M.; took park in the operations of Messines, where he was killed in action 7 June 1917; was wounded in the feet and awaiting his turn for help when he was killed by a shell. Buried at St Eloi; unm.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In memory of Corporal John Anthony Nowers, 19425, 26th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers who died on 7 June 1917 Age 28
Son of the late Mr E. H. R. Nowers and of Mrs M. E. Nowers of The Gables, Stamford
Remembered with honour, Voormezeele Enclosure No 3