Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lt Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall, 1st Royal West Kent Regiment

The period 27th February - 20th March was a good one for Chailey Parish. When the war ended in 1918, parishioners would notice that in fact it was the single longest stretch throughout the war years without a fatality. That run though, came to an end on March 21st, for it was on this day in 1915 that 19 year old Lieutenant Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall of the 1st Royal West Kent Regiment was killed by a German sniper near Ypres.

Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall was born on 23rd August 1895.  He was the youngest child of Henry Harrison and Blanch Pownall and he appears on the 1901 census, living with his parents and siblings at Ades, Chailey.  Today, Ades still stands but has been divided into a number of individual flats.  At the time Lionel was living there though, it was a sizeable estate comprising the main house, Hickwells house on the opposite side of Cinder Hill and acres of rolling Sussex countryside. 

Henry Harrison Pownall had bought the estate in 1899 after its previous owner, James Croft Ingram had been declared bankrupt as the result of some unwise investments by his business partner.  Henry practiced the law and in 1901 he was a successful 47 year old barrister living at Ades with his wife Blanch (aged 46) and their children Kathleen (12), John (10), Percy (8) and Lionel (5).  Henry had been born in Bloomsbury, London, his wife in Richmond, Surrey.  With the exception of Lionel who was born in Reigate, Surrey, all the other children had been born in Kensington, London.

Henry also employed a sizeable contingent of domestics.  Appearing on the 1901 census are Katherine Murdock (governess, aged 42), Margaret Towan (cook, aged 27), Emma Daniels (house maid, aged 42), Jane Popple (house maid, aged 22), Laura Turner (house maid, aged 24), Constance Hobden (kitchen maid, aged 21), Agnes Hobden (Maid, aged 15), Eva Kempton (trade unknown, aged 46), Frederick Game (butler, aged 34), Jane Game (his wife, aged 30), Evelyn Game (daughter of Frederick and Jane, age 6), George Wheeler (footman, aged 23), James Izzard (groom, aged 22) and Albert Leeson, (groom, aged 21).

One year older than Lionel, the butler’s daughter had, like Lionel’s brothers and sister, been born in Kensington.  Her father and mother were from Essex and Devon respectively and the only obvious connection with Kensington is through the Pownall family.  It seems probable that Frederick Game had worked for Henry Harrison Pownall prior to the family’s move to Chailey in 1899 and that Henry had lived in the Kensington area before moving to the Reigate area, probably before 1894.

It seems likely that Lionel spent the majority of his childhood at Ades but by the time the First World War was declared, the family had moved to Petersfield, Hampshire. 
Henry Harrison Pownall JP, Barrister at Law, had died suddenly after a short illness on 26th June 1913.  Two days later The Times reported his death, noting that he was 52 years old, the elder son of the late John Fish Pownall, resident at 63 Russell Square.  The funeral would be held at Chailey Parish Church at 2.45pm on the 30th.

Five months later, on the 8th November (repeated on the 15th), The Times ran an advert advertising the sale of the Ades Estate:

SALES BY AUCTION.  MR JOSEPH STOWER by direction of the Executors of H H Pownall, Esq, deceased. SUSSEX, in the picturesque Parish of Chailey, six and a half miles from Lewes and within about a mile of Newick and Chailey Station on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.  A charmingly situated FREEHOLD RESIDENTIAL ESTATE known as “ADES”, including a commodious MANSION IN FINELY TIMBERED PARK. Ornamental lake, and beautiful gardens and grounds. Extensive home farm premises, model dairy, TWO SUPERIOR COTTAGE RESIDENCES, TWO FARMS, SMALL HOLDINGS and COTTAGES. PRODUCTIVE PASTURE, ARABLE and WOODLANDS comprising altogether about 567 ACRES in practically a ring fence surrounded by good roads. To be sold by AUCTION by JOSEPH STOWER in association with Messrs POWELL and Co at the Auction Mart in London on Wednesday 25th November 1913 at 2pm.

On the 26th November 1913, a further advertisement was placed in The Times, this time giving notice of the sale of contents from the Ades estate:

SALES BY AUCTION. HENRY HARRISON POWNALL, Esq, deceased. “ADES”, Chailey, Sussex – The remaining portion of the valuable FURNITURE, inlaid ebony wardrobe, mahogany, birch and other bed room suites, range of Spanish mahogany bookcases, billiard table by Burroughes and Watts and accessories, coin cabinet, collection of 2,500 coins and medals, silver and electro plate, oil paintings, engravings, and Arundel Society Prints, rare old books, five carriages, harness and many miscellaneous effects.

MESSRS BRACKETT and SONS will SELL the foregoing by public AUCTION, upon the premises on Wednesday and Thursday, December 3 and 4, 1913 at 12 o’clock each day. Catalogues ready. Auctioneers, offices: Tunbridge Wells and 34 Craven Street, WC.
The estate was sold for the princely sum of £24,500 (about £1.5 million in 2006) as reported in The Times on 29th November 1913.
The Times does not give details of who bought the estate but the next information I have is that it was sold in June 1914 to Joseph Wright.  It would be Joseph who would later loan Hickwells House to the ladies of Sussex 54 VAD so that they could operate a convalescent hospital there. 
But back to Lionel Pownall.  According to his obituary published later in The Bond of Sacrifice, he was educated at Rottingdean School, Clifton College and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.  At Clifton, where he studied from 1909 to 1913, he was in the rugby XI and at Sandhurst in the 2nd XI.

He was gazetted to the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on 15th August 1914 and, according to his Army Form B. 103 Casualty Form Active Service (CFAS), embarked for France on 13th September 1914, arriving there the same day.  On 23rd September he joined the 1st Battalion in the Field.
Although the war was less than two months old, by the time Lionel joined his battalion, it had already been involved in heavy fighting at Mons, Le Cateau, The Aisne and Missy.  Approximate casualties for the first two months of the war were nine officers killed, two wounded and taken prisoner and four wounded.  Amongst Other Ranks, the total casualties were closer to 400 with well over a quarter of these sustained in the trenches at Missy.
On 2nd October, the battalion was relieved, but towards the end of October was back in the front line north-east of Neuve Chapelle.  By the 24th, The Queen’s Own held a line between the La Bassee and Largies Roads and was under constant shell, machine gun and rifle fire.  On the 26th, the enemy attacked, D Company on the right of the battalion’s line, taking the main force of the attack.  The Queen’s Own remained firm, firing steadily into the advancing enemy and bayoneting the few Germans who reached their wire.  During the action, Captain Beeman and Second Lieutenant J M Harding were killed and Captain Keenlyside mortally wounded.  Second Lieutenant Pownall sustained a wound to his left elbow and moved to the rear to be treated.  Over 50 other ranks were also killed or wounded in the action.
On the 28th October, Pownall was at Boulogne, boarding the hospital ship St Patrick.  The following day he arrived back in England, disembarking at Southampton.  According to his CFAS, Pownall “re-joined battalion” on 30th October.  This must be incorrect as he was already in England by this time.  It is possible however, that he reported to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Chatham before travelling the following day, to Queen Alexandra’s in Cosham London.  There, it was found that Pownall was “suffering from a wound of the left elbow by a shell fragment which struck the point of the elbow removing the skin and periosteum.  Wound clean and healing.”  The Board estimated that he would be fit for general service in two weeks.

Lionel Pownall does not appear to have gone immediately back to Chailey, if at all.  On 2nd November, a letter from the War Office asking him to complete some paperwork, was sent to him at 20 Charles Street.   Six days later, the War Office wrote again, this time to the officer commanding the 3rd Battalion at Chatham.  It stated simply that Pownall had returned to the UK and been granted sick leave by a Medical Board from 31st October to 14th November and that  “This officer will be dealt with by the War Office, until he is reported fit for general service, for service at home, or fit for light duty at home, and you will be notified when he is next examined by a medical board.”
That medical board was duly held on 14th November, Lionel being advised of it four days earlier.  The board duly recorded the details:  2nd Lieutenant L H Y Pownall, aged 19 and three months; disability: wound (splinter shell).  This time the Board reported that “He is suffering from stiffness and pain in the left elbow, sub-acute periostitis [inflammation of the membrane around the elbow bone] of the olecranon [elbow] and some effusion of fluid into the joint”.  They estimated that he would not be fit for General Service for a further two months.
On 7th January 1915, Lionel wrote to the Secretary at the War Office advising him that his leave was up on 9th January and asking when and where he was to attend his next board.  His leave was extended until 13th January, the date of the next medical board at Alexandra Hospital which, this time, found that “he has now recovered from his injury”.
Lionel Pownall rejoined his battalion on 16th February 1915 which, three days later, moved to Vlamertinghe.  On 20th February, the battalion took over trenches in front of Zillebeke, the war diary recording that the trenches were closer together than the Wulverghem sector where they had been previously, and the Prussians facing them, more aggressive.  On 22nd February, four officers and 18 other ranks were killed by enemy mortar fire and the battalion withdrew to the support line.  Casualties for January and February are reported in the war diary as 46 killed and 64 wounded.
The battalion remained in the Ypres area in March, moving to the Zillebeke sector on 1st March 1915 and then to Vlamertinghe on the 10th.  On the 14th, according to the war diary, 2nd Lieutenant L S White was accidentally killed whilst preparing jam tin bombs and on the same day, the battalion supported an attack on some lost trenches.  Two days later, the battalion again moved to trenches about two miles south of Ypres before returning to the trenches on the 20th.  The following day, Lionel Pownall was killed by a sniper.  He was buried in the field, according to his CFAS, east of the lunatic asylum on the Ypres-Poperinghe road.

Before burial, the possessions he was carrying were removed and later returned to his mother in Petersfield.  These were a letter case containing 138 francs,  a small pocket book, glasses, wrist watch, pipe, a purse containing 10s 6d 30 cents,  a cigarette holder,  a whistle, a book – The Happy Warrior, a diary, a cigarette case, a tobacco pouch, letters and a pipe lighter.
On March 26th, The East Sussex News carried a report of Lionel Pownall’s death:
Second Lieutenant Lionel Henry Yorke Pownall, Royal West Kent Regiment, who is unofficially reported to have been killed in action, was the youngest son of the late Mr H H Pownall of Ades, Chailey and Mrs Pownall, Dunannie, Petersfield.  He obtained his commission in the 1st Battalion of The Royal West Kent Regiment on August 15th last year.  The deceased was only 19 years of age.
In actual fact, at the time of his death Lionel Pownall was a lieutenant rather than second lieutenant.  On 15th April, the Supplement to The London Gazette (page 3697) recorded promotions for a number of officers.  Amongst them it was noted that “L H Y Pownall (since killed in action)” was to be promoted from Second Lieutenant to temporary Lieutenant.  The promotion was dated 15th November.  Later, on 9th August, a further Supplement to the London Gazette (page 7867) recorded, “The promotion to the rank of Lieutenant of Second Lieutenant L. H. Y. Pownall is antedated to the 11th January 1915.”
An obituary also appeared in Wisden's 1916 Almanack:
LIEUT. LIONEL HENRY YORKE POWNALL (1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment) was killed in action on March 21, aged 19. He was in the Clifton College Eleven of 1913, when he scored 57 runs with an average of 6.33.
On 1st June 1915, the Principal Probate Registry recorded that Lieutenant L H Y Pownall “died intestate, a bachelor without father.  Grantee: Blanche Pownall, widow, the natural and lawful mother and only next of kin of the said intestate.  Gross value £139 16s 9d.”


The Ades mansion, which still exists but which has long since been converted into flats, has an unhappy connection with the First World War. Gerald Sclater Ingram who had also lived at the mansion before the Pownall family bought the estate, had been killed on the Western Front in October 1914. He too is commemorated on Chailey's war memorials.
A number of individuals on the Great War forum ( have assisted with the research into Lionel Pownall.  Thanks go to stephenb for the obituary and photo of Lionel Pownall as it appeared in the Illustrated London News, to Hambo for the obituary that appeared in The Bond of Sacrifice, to Dick Flory for information on Pownall’s time at Clifton College and to Dave Gough, Jonathan Saunders and WestKent78 for information about The Queen’s Own.  Aurel Sercu of Belgium and Colin Roberts of the Shetland Isles both took several photos of Lionel Pownall’s last resting place at Bedford House Cemetery.  Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

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