Ernest Harold Victor ROWLEY


ROWLEY, Ernest Harold Victor

Service Number: 3519
Enlisted: 4 August 1915, 4.5 years Senior Cadets
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 52nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, March 1896
Home Town: Launceston, Launceston, Tasmania
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 25 November 1916
Cemetery: Longueval Road Cemetery, France
Row I, Grave 2,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, South Launceston State School Pictorial Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

4 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3519, 12th Infantry Battalion, 4.5 years Senior Cadets
10 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, SN 3519, 12th Infantry Battalion
10 Nov 1915: Embarked Private, SN 3519, 12th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Melbourne
3 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 52nd Infantry Battalion
3 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 52nd Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Francois Berthout

Pte 3519 Ernest Harold Victor Rowley,
52nd Australian Infantry Battalion,
13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division

In the fields of the Somme, as far as the eye can see, the poppies undulate in peaceful waves in the serene silence but which remind us each day with emotion that more than a hundred years ago, on these same fields. They faced the mud and blood, through the barbed wire, in the fury and chaos of a world gone mad, fought and fell thousands of young men, an entire generation who stood up bravely in the face of darkness and who, together, faced adversity, united in camaraderie and fraternity.

They did more than their duty in the name of peace to preserve[EE1]  freedom and our humanity and who, under the bullets, facing the horrors, the pains of war, charging bayonets forward, gave their today to make prevail the peace in which we live and for which so many of them fell, mowed down in full youth, in the prime of their lives and who today, united forever in remembrance alongside their friends and brothers in arms. They still stand young and proud among the endless rows of their white graves in front of which I will always stand with respect and gratitude to honor the memory of the men who here, in the fields of France, gave their lives, so that their sacrifices are never forgotten, so that their faces and their names live forever.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and with the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow. I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3519 Ernest Harold Victor Rowley who fought in the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion, 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and who was killed in action 106 years ago, on November 25, 1916 at the age of 18 on the Somme front.

Ernest Harold Victor Rowley was born on December 22, 1897 in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, and was the son of Thomas George Rowley (1870-1964) and Lena Florence Rowley (née Etchell, 1873-1923), of 99 Galvin Street, Launceston, Tasmania. He had a brother, Percy Rowley, and a sister, Olive Grace Rowley, of Balfour House, Balfour Street, Launceston. Ernest had his first military experience before the war and served four years and five months in the Senior Cadets in the 92nd Infantry Battalion, B Company, then worked as a labourer.

Ernest enlisted on August 4, 1915 at Claremont, Tasmania, in the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion, 11th Reinforcement, and after a training period of just over two months, he embarked with his unit from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A11 Ascanius on November 10, 1915 and sailed for Egypt.

On March 3, 1916, Ernest arrived in Egypt and was disembarked at Zeitoun and was allocated and transferred the same day to the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion at Tel-El-Kebir. The battalion was raised two days earlier in Egypt as part of the reorganization and expansion of the Australian Imperial Force following the Gallipoli campaign. This was achieved by transferring cadres of experienced personnel predominately from the 1st Division to the newly formed battalions and combining them with recently recruited personnel who had been dispatched as reinforcements from Australia. The 52nd was then under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Miles Fitzroy Beevor, a South Australian who had served with the 10th Australian Infantry Battalion at ANZAC.

From March 3, 1916, Ernest and the men of the 52nd Battalion followed an intensive period of training then three months later, on June 5, joined the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in Alexandria and proceeded overseas for France on board HMT Ivernia.

On June 12, 1916, after a short journey of a week on the Mediterranean Sea, Ernest and the 52nd Battalion arrived in France and were disembarked in Marseilles from where they embarked by train for Sailly-Sur-La-Lys where they followed a training period including anti-gas exercises and receiving new equipment to prepare them for trench warfare then on June 23, followed a period of acclimatization in a "nursery sector" in the Petillon sector, in trenches in "good conditions" but which they improved and reinforced with machine guns, strongpoints and barbed wire.

On July 1, 1916, while the offensive on the Somme began, the men of the 52nd Battalion, still in the Petillon sector, supported a raid led by the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion on their right flank then another raid led by the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion the following day with the effective and precise support of the Australian artillery but suffered violent counter-battery fire from the German artillery but caused very little damage on the Australian lines.

The following days, calm returned in the sector and on the night of July 11 to 12, the 52nd Battalion was relieved by the 58th Australian Infantry Battalion, moved back to Sailly-Sur-La-Lys where orders were received to move to support the British troops in the Somme, so on July 13, the 52nd embarked by train for the battlefields of the Somme.

On July 14, 1916, Ernest and the 52nd Battalion arrived in the Somme, in the village of Halloy-Les-Pernois where they were billeted and followed a period of general training then on July 29, moved to Toutencourt and Harponville on August 2.Three days later, August 5, they left Harponville, marched through Warloy-Baillon, Senlis and arrived at "Brickfield" the following day, at Albert, for a final period of rest before being sent to the front line, in the muddy trenches of the Somme killing fields.

On August 10, 1916, Ernest and his comrades moved to La Boisselle, "Tara Hill" on the afternoon of August 13 and entered the trenches standing in front of Mouquet Farm, during the terrible battle of Pozieres , in a trench called "Wire Trench". At Mouquet Farm, the 52nd Battalion had a support role but suffered terribly under a devastating German artillery whose shots were described by the Australians "as the deadliest and most brutal of all the war". Three days later, completely exhausted, the battalion moved back to Albert where they bivouacked until the next day then on August 18, marched through Warloy-Baillon, La Vicogne, Herissart, Canaples, and arrived at Bonneville on August 21 for reorganization and training including trench attack exercises.

On August 26 the 52d left Bonneville and moved back to the front line at Mouquet Farm on September 1 and the following day were involved in a courageous attack in an attempt to capture the farm. Assigned to the centre of the 13th Brigade's attack, the majority of 52nd Battalion was tasked with capturing the Fabeck Graben, while two platoons assisted with the drive towards Mouquet Farm. The battalion briefly managed to secure its objective, before being forced back. The attack resulted in heavy casualties, with the battalion losing nine officers and 170 other ranks. Amongst those killed from the 52nd Battalion during the fighting around Mouquet Farm were three brothers: Thomas, Wilf and Hurtle Potter. A fourth member of the family, Ralph, was also wounded in the battle, and invalided back to Australia.

Following this attack on Mouquet Farm, Ernest and the 52nd Battalion moved back to Warloy-Baillon on 5 September 1916 and were sent by train to Amplier, Pas-De-Calais, then reorganized at Steenvoorde, received reinforcements and followed a new period of training including several parades, bayonet fights and trench attacks. On September 21, the battalion left Steenvoorde for Reninghelst, in the Ypres salient, and marched to Chippewa Camp where on September 30, during a parade, Ernest showed a slight lack of discipline. During the parade, cigarette in the mouth, he received the order to stop smoking but disobeyed and was awarded 14 days in Field Prison.

On October 14, 1916, Ernest joined his unit in the relatively quiet sector of Dickebush where the men of the 52nd were mainly reinforcing their trenches before winter but suffered particularly wet weather with knees deep in the mud and then from the 21 October, faced biting cold and were relieved two days later by the Queen's 11th Battalion (Royal West Surrey Regiment) then marched to Patricia Camp near Poperinge but received orders to return to fight in the Somme and arrived by train in the village of St Riquier and marched into billets at Buigny-l'Abbe on 27 October where they remained until November 1.

On November 2, 1916, the 52nd Battalion left Buigny-l'Abbe and marched for Mouflers then for St Vast, moved for Vignacourt on November 7 then for Buire the same day. After a few days of rest, they were sent to Fricourt on November 12 then for Delville Wood the next day in a cold winter which was one of the coldest in the Somme. At Delville Wood, despite very difficult conditions for the Australians, Ernest and his comrades were employed in the construction of a Aid Post but also in the construction of dugouts and shelters and unfortunately, it was in Delville Wood, on November 25, 1916, that Ernest met his fate and was killed alongside one of his comrades by a shell while he was helping to build a shelter, he was only 18 years old.

Today, Ernest Harold Victor Rowley rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Longueval Road Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "A loving son, a faithful soldier, sadly missed."

The man who was killed by the same shell which fell near Ernest was Private number 3585 Arthur Reid, 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion and who today rests in peace alongside Ernest at Longueval Road Cemetery.

Ernest, it is carried by a spirit of courage and patriotism that at the dawn of a life full of hopes and expectations you answered the call of duty alongside your friends to do your duty, to do your part on the battlefields of the great war.  Then with dedication and conviction, after a last farewell, you came from the other side of the world to fight in France, to bring new hope to the people of France who sank in the darkness of a war that drove a whole generation of young boys to tear each other apart and kill each other in dreadful bloodbaths that were the scene of the darkest hours of history.

In the heart of the turmoil and absolute apocalypse which were the most abominable battles of that madness which set the heart of Europe and the world ablaze in a devastating fury through which moved forward waves of men charging and falling in the poppy fields of the Somme. Where the witnesses of the bravery and sacrifices of a whole generation of heroes who, without hesitation alongside their comrades, went over the top to make peace prevail under rains of bullets that flesh-and-blood-thirsty machine guns spat at them at a frightening pace under the infernal roar of the shells which fell around them.  They crushed, bruised with sharp and burning fragments the bodies of boys in the prime of their lives and which in a few moments were mercilessly annihilated, mutilated, disfigured, buried alive in a putrid mud in which men and horses lay lifeless, friends and enemies united in death and eternal rest.

In the cold, with their knees deep in the mud, haunted by the ever-present fear of death, these young boys sacrificed their youth and left behind them the security, the warmth and the love of their homes for the killing fields of Pozieres, of the Mouquet Farm where the young Australian soldiers, in nightmarish conditions, pounded, riddled with bullets, showed their unfailing courage, their loyalty and their extreme bravery pushed forward by the ANZAC spirit, a spirit of mutual aid, of endurance, ingenuity in the face of adversity, good humour and mateship. A mateship that gave the strength and courage to these exceptional men to hold the front line and fight again and again without ever backing down even at the cost of terrible losses.

The ANZAC spirit stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness and fidelity, that will never own defeat. In Gallipoli, Fromelles, Pozieres, Flers, Gueudecourt, Dernancourt, Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens, the young Diggers fought with perseverance and conviction to preserve peace and our humanity.

Always on the front line, exhausted, their battalions were more once destroyed but they never gave up and fought until the end with determination to help our old country to recover and were deeply loved and adopted by the French families, by the children who saw in the Australians true heroes in whom we will be eternally grateful and over whom we will always watch as we walk with respect in their footsteps and in front of their white graves which stand in the eternal shroud of poppies growing in the light of peace in which their faces and their names, their memory will live forever.

Thank you Ernest, for all that you have done alongside your comrades for my country which will never forget the courage and the sacrifices of the Australians whose souls will live here forever in remembrance and on whom I will watch over forever with love and care, with the deepest respect and gratitude. The ANZAC spirit, through the poppies of the Somme, will live forever.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him, we will remember them.

 [EE1]Just one sentence, need to break this down into at least 3-4 sentences