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Remembered Today:

Rowley - No 96594 Tank Regiment


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I am research the military history of my Grandfather, John Joseph Rowley who was born in 1898 in St Pancras in London. Unfortunately, like many, he didn't like to talk about the war. I am hoping that someone can help me with research or point me in the right direction.

According to family history, he joined the army when he was fourteen!

From to the service record I have found, he joined the Tank Regiment when he was 18 in 1916 and then rejoined in 1919 for a further three years. However, before joining the Tank Regiment he was previously in the Suffolk Regiment.

What I have been trying to find out without much luck is the following:

What was his military history before joining the Tank Regiment?

What did he do in the Tank Regiment and where did he fight. The service record tells us he was wounded on 24/10/1918. Where was he when he wounded?

He got married on 22/2/1922 and had a child later that year, so where was he stationed until he left the army in 1922.

I tried to upload his service record but the file was too big so here is the transcript.

Apologies for earlier errors referred to below.

Army No: 96594


Name: John Joseph Rowly

Date of Attestation: 25.5.1916 - Signed on for further 3 years 5.2.1919

Age on Attestation: 18

Place of Attestation: St Pancras

Transfer to or From Regiment: Blank

Trade: Carman

Period of Mobilized Service: 25.5.1916

Parish: St Pancras

Name of Woman Married and Child: Married 16.2.1920, Birth of Child 10.11.1917, Birth of Child 2.5.1920

Place of Marriage or Birth of Child: St Pancras

Campaigns, Wounds, Medals: BEF France, Wounded 24/10/1918, British War and Victory Medal

Discharge Date: 31/3/1922

Place: Regents Park

Cause: Discharge under para 392 (XXI)KR on Termination of Engagement. Serial No. 4269

Rank and Character: Private - Very Good

Address on Discharge: 17 Clarendon Street St Pancras

Former service an No: Suffolk Regiment No 32015

Many thanks for any help.

Edited by Guest
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  • Admin

There is no attachment but I assume you are referring to the enlistment records for the Tank Corps on Find My Past however as he served beyond 1920 his service record should be at the MoD on payment of £30 https://www.gov.uk/requests-for-personal-data-and-service-records

It can take a long time!

His medal index card indicates he did not go overseas with any regiment other than the Tank Corps and did not go on active service until after 31.12.1916. The enlistment records show other men from the Suffolk Regiment but their entries have a Training Reserve Bn noted as well. The record shows he was 18 when he attested on the 25th May 1916, which accords with the date of birth given in your post.

This was not unusual, under the Military Service Act all men aged 18 to 41 were 'deemed to have enlisted' although he was not allowed to on active service overseas until attaining the age of nineteen (with some exceptions). It was difficult for an under age soldier to enlist or be conscripted at this time as there was a process of national registration the previous year. I suspect his history went something like called up for service on the date shown, basic infantry training (12 weeks), then posted to a Home Service Bn of the Suffolks before volunteering or being posted to the Tank Corps where he would have undergone further training and going on active service overseas sometime in 1917 at the earliest.

He was probably wounded during the attacks on the Hindenburg Line but you need a tank expert for that.

I'm mystified why your heading says Cheshire Regiment I suggest you amend it to read 'Name 96594 Tank Corps' and that will no doubt attract those who have much greater knowledge of the Tank Corps than I do. I wouldn't worry too much about the Suffolks at this stage as the service record should indicate his service prior to the Tanks.


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Your thread title says "Cheshire Regt", the thread itself says "Suffolk Regt", which is it, did he "re-enlist" in the Cheshire's?

You also say he enlisted age 14 which meant he enlisted in 1912 going by his year of birth.


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Apologies for the error. I have corrected my original post.

The story about him joining up when 14 is plausible. In 1911 the family lived in one room and his mother died in 1910. We know through family history that he lived with his sister for a while but left as it was too cramped. He wasn't at school and had no job when he was 14. I can only speculate that joining the army was preferable to living in squalor.

Thanks Ken for the info on recruit's timeline.

I know that most of the men who lived where he lived were recruited into the Rifle Brigade during the early part of the war as they had a base in Camden Town, a stone's throw from where he lived so for him to be in the Suffolk Regiment doesn't make sense.

Another subject of my research who lived in the same area, was the same age and a good friend of his joined the 19th Training Reserve Battalion, therefore, it is likely my grandfather would have also enlisted in a Training Reserve Battalion.

A lot of under age soldiers fought in WW1 so my thinking is that he joined a Territorial Unit or Special Reserve Unit at 14 and ended up in the Suffolk Regiment.

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I'm sorry but the family history is not at all plausible as Sam says if he joined at 14 then he would have enlisted in 1912. He could have enlisted as bugler etc but this does not seem likely as his civilian occupation was a 'carman'. It is true many 'under age' soldiers enlisted in the first rush to recruitment 1914 but by 1916 the majority had either been sent home or dealt with by the Army some other way until they came of age and some remained at the Front. However your grandfather's record seems similar to many other soldiers around his number who were drafted into the Tank Corps or MGC (Heavy Brigade) as it was named for security reasons in June 1917.

As an example 96556 attested 23 September 1916, (aged 17 years 7 months from Brentford) he was placed on the Army Reserve the following day and mobilized on the 8th March 1917 posted to a Training Reserve Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He was transferred to the MGC (Heavy) on the 1st June 1917. Posted to the Depot Bn he remained there until 5th July 1918 when he was posted to the Base Depot in France moving into the 10th Bn on the 6th September 1918.

He was discharged 26/11/1919
The transfer authority to the ‘MGC’ looks like E.E. No 4/67909 A2 dated 1/6/1917 apart from the date I can’t help with the rest but given the proximity of numbers I’d suggest your g-father was transferred under the same authority.
96525 (18 years 8 months from Peckham) enlisted 3/3/1917 and also posted in to the Tank Corps 2nd June 1917, older than the previous man he went to France in November 1917. His authority for transfer is much clearer and is on the authority of the Officer Commanding the Depot Bn Wareham
96526 East London same date same authority he went from the 19th Training Reserve in Northampton (which was associated with the Rifle Brigade).
96543 (from Kent same date same authority)
96593 (from St Neots) enlisted 2/12/1916 mobilised 2/2/1917 also transferred from 26th T.R. B( same date same authority).
Also if you go back to the original page on FMP you will see the two men below him on the list one from Lambeth and one from Dalston both came from the 26th Training Reserve Bn which was the 10th Reserve Bn Suffolk Regiment based at Harwich. Each of the other men listed above all came from similar T.R.Battalions None served overseas with any other Regiment See LLT http://www.1914-1918.net/training_reserve.htm
By 1916 men were simply trained anywhere (Harry Patch recalled he had six cap badges while training) and posted to where they were needed so not unusual he went to the 26th TR Bn. and then to the Tank Corps.
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