Sunday, September 07, 2014

Captain Henry William Towner, Royal Garrison Artillery

Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions Harry Towner in November 1914 when it notes that he is serving his King and Country. In October 1915 it notes his rank – lieutenant – and the fact that he is serving with the Garrison Artillery.

Harry Towner is Henry William Towner, a career soldier who was born at Slaugham, Sussex around 1873. He was the brother of Edgar Lancelot Towner who was also a career soldier having served for twelve years with the Royal Garrison Artillery prior to joining the Canadian Field Artillery. Henry 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 (aged 17, working as a gardener), Rose Harriet Towner (aged 11), Edgar Lancelot Towner (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.

By the time the 1901 census was taken, Henry was serving with the British Army. He is noted in the return for South Shoebury, Essex as being stationed at Shoeburyness barracks where he is recorded as a 27 year old unmarried corporal serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Henry arrived overseas with the RGA on the 29th June 1915 as 3822 Quartermaster Sergeant

On 3rd March 1916 the London Gazette noted that “Second Lieutenant H W Towner, Royal Artillery, to be Captain Instructor in Gunnery, to be seconded, and to be temporary Lieutenant. Dated 11th February 1916.” In September it announced that he was to be promoted to Lieutenant, effective from 8th August, and to remain seconded. In February 1917 the East Sussex News reported:

Lieut H Towner RGA, who is well known in the Chailey district, has been promoted again.

This was duly followed up in the parish magazine in May, noting that Towner’s rank was now Captain. There is then little information on Harry Towner. In October 1918 under the heading: Establishments – Schools of Instruction for RH and RFA, The London Gazette noted “Lt (Actg Capt) H W Towner RA, from Asst Supt of Experiments, to be Capt Instr in Gunnery, to retain his acting rank and to remain seconded. 13th June 1918.”

Henry Towner may be related to Timothy Towner who is also noted by Chailey’s parish magazine as serving his King and Country. Medal index card courtesy of Ancestry.

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