According to his Canadian attestation papers, Edgar Lancelot Towner was born in Sussex, England on 17th November 1881. This date is confirmed by the registry of births, marriages and deaths which has an entry for him on page 194 of the Lewes volume (2b) for the December quarter of 1881. He appears on the 1891 census of England and Wales living at South Street, Chailey with his family. The household comprised: Emily Towner (head, widow, aged 45) and four children: Henry William Towner (aged 17, working as a gardener), Rose Harriet Towner (aged 11), Edgar (a nine year old scholar) and Emily Walls Towner (aged five).
Ten years later, Edgar is still living in Chailey although by now his 21 year old sister Rose (a housekeeper) is noted as the head of the family with Edgar (aged 19) working as a stockman on a farm and his sister Emily noted as being at home with her sister. Their mother had died a few weeks before at the age of 56, her death registered at Lewes in the March quarter of 1901. There is no mention of Henry on the census return for Chailey.
If the information Edgar gave on the census and subsequently on his attestation papers is correct, it would appear that shortly after 1901 he left farming and joined the army. His attestation papers, dated 1st February 1916 and signed and witnessed in Toronto, note that he had previously served for 12 years with the Royal Garrison Artillery.
By the time he attested, Edgar Towner was 35 years old, married to Gertrude and working as a milk driver. He gave his address as 108 Jones Avenue, Toronto although this was subsequently scored through and 180 Bertrand Avenue written in its place.
Edgar's height was recorded at five feet nine and a quarter, his complexion fresh, eyes blue and hair black. A small scar on his left side was noted as a distinctive mark. He gave his religion as Church of England.
Edgar Towner’s attestation was approved by the officer commanding 48th Overseas Battery, Canadian Field Artillery and he was given the army number 1608.
Between 22nd and 25th May 1916, he was treated for laryngitis at Toronto Hospital and on 3rd August 1916 he completed a statement of family information stating the same address he had given on attestation. His father and mother (both un-named) were noted as deceased and he also noted a son, Edgar Thomas Towner, aged one year and three months. Edgar gave his profession as Dairyman.
On 11th September 1916, Edgar Towner embarked upon SS Cameronia at Halifax, Nova Scotia and eleven days later disembarked at Liverpool. Chailey Parish Magazine first records him in November 1916 as Towner, Gunner E, Canadian F A, England. Thereafter, continuously until July 1919, the magazine would simply record him as Towner, Gunner E, Canadian F A.
Edgar Towner appears to have spent time initially with the 16th Canadian Field Artillery Brigade before being Struck off Strength and posted to the 31st Battery, 15th Brigade at Milford Camp, Witley on 22nd January 1917. He proceeded overseas on 20th March 1917, arriving in France the following day.
Between the 4th and 16th November 1917 he was at an Army Rest Camp and was later on leave between 13th and 27th January 1918. He was awarded a Good Conduct badge at Rouen on 1st February 1918 (two years to the day since he had attested) and was again on leave between the 1st and 20th January 1919.
On 25th April 1919 he left for England and was Struck off Strength, pending his departure for Canada on arrival in England the following day.
A Medical History Form was completed two days later at Bramshott.
On 18th May 1919 he embarked for Canada aboard SS Aquitania, arriving at Halifax on the 25th. He was discharged from Number 2 Discharge Depot in Toronto on 27th May 1919.
At his Bramshott Medical Board it was reported that Edgar had suffered permanent partial hearing loss which had gradually worsened as a result of an explosion in May 1917. The incident which caused this hearing loss did not, at the time, necessitate him being hospitalised. The Board also noted that he had partial dentures.
Apart from the two home addresses noted on his attestation form, in pay records dated February 1917 his address was given as 39 Galt Avenue, Toronto and on his discharge in 1919 he gave his address as 70 Marjory Avenue, Toronto. The address on his Medal Card, stamped 11th March 1922 gave a fifth address: 148 Gurzon (or Curzon) Street, Toronto.
Edgar Lancelot Towner’s brother, Henry (Harry) William Towner also served during the First World War. The two men may be related to Timothy Towner who is also mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine.