The Bower family

The details given on Reg’s records at the Australian War Memorial for contact address for any further information for the Historian, presumably given by Reg’s wife Laura after the war, are “George H Gill, Esq. c/o Newquay, Durham Ave, Bromley, Kent, England”. This was not the home address for Reg’s father G.H.Gill.

G.H.Gill had moved since Reg was a boy, firstly to The Copse, in Witley, Surrey and then, just before WWI, to the Malt House, Lurgashall in West Sussex, where Reg’s visited while on leave from the Western Front.

I have discovered that Newquay, Durham Avenue in Bromley was in fact the address of George Clifford Bower, Reg’s ‘Uncle Cliff” on his mother’s side of the family.

Reg’s mother Agnes Ellen Gill (nee Bower) tragically died in childbirth with Reggie in September 1883. Reg is recorded as being born in Putney. His elder brother, Theo, was also recorded as being born in Putney two years previously in 1881 and Theo’s photo album shows the following house of his grandparents Mr and Mrs Theodore Bower ‘the house in which I was born’. It is likely that Reg was also born in the same house.

Meadowcroft, Upper Richmond Road, Putney

GTG photo album - p.45Although Reg and Theo’s father remarried a year later in 1884, to Mary Agnes (nee Kingsnorth), Mary tragically died of Hodgkins disease less than eight years later in 1892, leaving Theo and Reggie motherless again, aged just 11 and 9. GH Gill remarried for a third time in 1893 to Eleanor Pritchard (nee Cook) who had been the specialist nurse of his late wife Mary during her illness. GHG’s third son, Albert Richard Gill, was born in 1894. However, despite the tragic loss of Reg’s mother, it seems from Reg’s letters home from the front (here and here) that Theo and Reg remained very close to their mother’s extended family.  I discovered a photo montage of the extended Bower family which seems to have been made from separate photos taken of the family members in around 1900-1903:

The family of Theodore Bower, Esq.

Written on the back of the photograph:

“Back Row L-R: Jack Richardson, Theodore Bower, Theodore Gill, Reginald Gill, Herbert Richardson, Mrs G.C.Bower, G.C. Bower, T.H.Bower, G.H.Gill, Violet Bower, Geoffrey Richardson.

Middle Row L-R: Marjorie Bower, Alfred Bower, Mrs Herbert Richardson (‘Aunt Edith’), Daphne Bower, Theodore Bower, Margaret Bower, Mrs. Theodore Bower, Mrs. T.H. Bower, Bernard Richardson.

Front Row L-R:  Phillip Richardson, Gerard Bower, Cyril Bower

Of those mentioned in Reg’s letters:

George Clifford Bower, stockbroker, and his wife Emily Maud (nee Earnshaw) – ‘Uncle Cliff’ and ‘Aunty Maud’ in Reg’s letters – lived at ‘Newquay’, Durham Avenue, Bromley. Their children were:

Violet Bower – not mentioned in Reg’s letters. Violet married Francis John Fane in October 1915 and so presumably had left home by the time of Reg’s visit in June/July 1916.

Capt. Theodore Clifford Bower MC – mentioned in Reg’s letters in his visits to Bromley as ‘Theo‘.

Theodore H BowerAt the time of Reg’s first visit on leave in 1915, Theo was a Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion the Honourable Artillery Regiment (2 HAC). The HAC was (and still is) a territorial regiment in the City of London and many city professionals served both in the ranks and as officers. Theo was a private in 1912 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant just before the outbreak of war in August 1914, to Lieutenant in May 1915 and to Temporary Captain in January 1916 and Captain in April 1917 and Acting Major while second in command in July 1918.

The Prince of Wales (Capt TC Bower commanding the honour guard of the HAC) at the Guildhall – Oct 1922

I understand that Theo had been hospitalised in France in December 1914 with frostbite and returned to England but rejoined his regiment at the front again in 1915. Theo was awarded the MC in 1917, presumably for the period of the 2 HAC in Bullecourt in May –  reported in the London Gazette 17 July 1917:  “before the attack he carried out a daring reconnaissance in daylight and brought back most valuable information. Later he led his company with great gallantry setting a fine example throughout.” He




Margaret Bower – mentioned in Reg’s letters as ‘Margy and her husband‘, who was John M Nussey

Alfred George Bower – mentioned in Reg’s letters as ‘Baish‘ or ‘Baishe

Baish Bower

Baishe was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 4th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in May 1915 before transferring to the 1st Battalion on 27 July 1915. Later in the war he was a temporary captain.

After the war Baishe became a stockbroker like his father. He played football as an amateur for the Old Carthusians (the old boy team for Charterhouse School, where he and his brothers had been to school).


Baishe also played for the famous Corinthians and made nine appearances for Chelsea in the 1st and 2nd Division between 1923 – 1926. He won five full caps for England between 1923 and 1927 as an amateur at a time when it was becoming increasingly rare for an amateur to play for the full international team. Baishe went on to captain England for 2 victories, against Belgium and Wales, also a draw against Wales in which he was the last amateur footballer to captain England.

Daphne Bower – born in 1901, and mentioned often in Reg’s letters with ‘Uncle Cliff’ and ‘Aunty Maud’. She would have been 15 years old at the time of Reg’s visits on leave from the Western Front.

Theodore Herbert Bower, the other brother of Reg’s mother, and his wife Mary Whichelo (nee Rowe) – known as ‘Uncle Bert‘ and ‘Aunty Minnie‘ in Reg’s letters. Their children were:

Cyril Whichelo Bower – not mentioned in Reg’s letters presumably because he was on active service. Captain C W Bower DSC RN. He passed out from the training cruiser HMS Cumberland as midshipman in December 1910. Then  to HMS Hibernia (January – December 1911) and HMS Orion (January 1912 – February 1913), When the War broke out he was a sub-lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Laforey, 3rd Destroyer Flotilla, Harwich Force until September 1915. and then to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, Eastern Mediterranean Squadron for the final stages of the Gallipoli campaign (October 1915 – January 1916). In March 1916, he was appointed first lieutenant of the HMS Harpy (also 5th Destroyer Flotilla) on patrol duties off the Dardanelles (May 1916) and in December 1917, on the new destroyer HMS Michael. Cyril was awarded the DSC in September 1918, for service in action against enemy submarines. In 1923-25 he served in the HMS Hawkins, flagship in China, and in 1928-30 as first lieutenant-commander of the HMS Despatch, flagship on the America and West Indies Station. He was then executive officer of HMS Champion, gunnery and torpedo school cruiser, at Portsmouth. And finally Cyril was appointed Captain-Superintendent of the Arethusa Training Ship in 1932. He died in 1973.

Gerard Rimington Bower  – not mentioned in Reg’s letters – He was serving as 2nd Lieut. with the 1/22nd London Regiment 1st Bn Royal West Surrey. Actually Gerard was killed in action on 15th July 1916 – the day after Reg’s letter home describing his visit to the Bowers. Gerard went to Tonbridge School leaving at  Easter, 1914. Three weeks after the outbreak of war he received a commission, dated August 24th, 1914, in the 2/22nd (County of London) Battalion London Regiment (The Queen’s) (Territorial Force), and in the spring of 1915 he went to France with his Battalion and was promoted Temporary Lieutenant, on 27th May 1915. After being in the trenches for five weeks he returned from the Front, as he had been given a nomination for Sandhurst. Passing out of Sandhurst at the end of 1915, Gerard was gazetted to The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regt.) as 2nd Lieut., December 22nd, 1915, and returned to the Front on 20 May 1916. He was killed in action on 15th July 1916, whilst leading his men in an attack in the Battle of the Somme, shot through the head right on top of the German wire, which at that point had escaped destruction during the preparatory bombardment. His C.O. wrote of him “He had only been a short time with us, but he gave every promise of a successful career and I much deplore his loss. He died in a gallant manner at the head of his platoon.” Various officers have testified that he was “an excellent officer and one of the smartest subalterns in the Battalion,” and the following are extracts from some of their letters: “His platoon was among the first to go over, and I hear he led the men splendidly, that it was a fine sight to see them all in line following him. He led them forward right in the face of a heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, with another machine-gun catching them in rear from a certain wood. He showed great bravery and a fine example.” “He was so high-spirited and such a good officer, almost the ideal type, and we were all so fond of him.” “He had that devotion to duty and that love of, and care for, his men which is the hall-mark of the English officer.”

Godfrey Bower  – not mentioned in Reg’s letters and I cannot find information for him.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on the Richardson family.

“Worcester” – the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College

New CrestAfter school at Ovingdean Hall, Reggie joined the ‘Worcester’ – officially called the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester (ITNC) and affectionately by the cadets as “the Ship”, which was a training academy for young officer cadets bound for the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.

The training academy was situated on board the former warship named HMS Worcester, hence the name of the academy, which was moored on the River Thames at Greenhithe, just east of London, between Dartford and Gravesend. It was the second of three ships of that name to house the college so is often referred to as Worcester II in pictures of the vessel.

There are two photos of Reggie in the uniform of ‘Worcester’ but only one is dated – 1897. Reggie would have been fourteen at the time.

GTG photo album - p.27

There are a number of excellent photos and paintings of the ‘Worcester’ and the cadets around the time that Reggie would have been there on the excellent website

‘Worcester’ Rugby Team – circa 1880-1892
Cadets on Deck

The academy had been founded in 1862 by a group of London shipowners, marine insurance underwriters and merchants who felt the need for pre-sea training for potential officers in the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy.  The Admiralty provided the two decker, 1473 ton, 50 gun frigate HMS Worcester. The ship was located at a number of places before being moored at Greenhithe were it remained but the school did not have any permanent shore facilities there until 1920 when the Ingress Abbey estate was purchased.

‘Worcester’ started with just 18 cadets but the numbers grew rapidly and there was soon a waiting list for entry. By the mid-1870s the first Worcester was too small and in 1877 ‘Worcester I’ was replaced by the much larger ‘Worcester II’ – the two decked battleship HMS Frederick William (4,725 tons, 214 feet long,  86 guns and screw propulsion) which was renamed the HMS Worcester on arrival at Greenhithe – and which could accommodate over 150 cadets. When Reggie was there in 1897 there were 155 cadets.

The following information comes from an article appearing in Boys Own Paper of 1893:

Thames Nautical Training College, H.M.S. “Worcester”

   We give with this brief article a portrait group of the racing crew of the Worcester, which ship carried off the Challenge Cup on the Thames in 1892, and on the Mersey in 1893. Captain D. Wilson, Barker, who started as a cadet on the Worcester, is now commander of this well-known training-ship, a few particulars about which can hardly fail to interest our readers.

About five hours of the day, it seems, are devoted to schooling; the rest to technical training in all the practical duties of seamanship. The recreations and amusements of the boys have been carefully studied.  In the summer a swimming-bath is moored to the side of the ship, in which the boys are professionally taught. On the shore, at Greenhithe, a field of two and a-half acres has been secured for cricket, football, and tennis. To all these aids to muscle development must, of course, be added that of rowing, which is enjoyed ad libitum.

The boys are generally received between the ages of eleven and sixteen, and remain from two to four years, according to their position in the school on joining.   After a course of two years on board, a boy is entitled to a Board of Trade certificate, should he then be in one of the nautical classes; and a Worcester certificate is recognised by the Board of Trade as equivalent to one year’s service at sea. A great advantage that the cadets possess on leaving is the arrangement between the Secretary of State for India in Council and the committee of this training ship, whereby appointments as leadsmen apprentices in the Bengal pilot service are placed at the disposal of the latter. These appointments are very lucrative, the higher grades reaching £1,200 per annum. When accepted, a free passage to Calcutta is given to each cadet, and £20 towards an outfit. Considerable encouragement is given to Worcester boys to qualify for cadetships in the Navy.

The Queen awards a prize of a binocular glass, and the sum of £35 towards the expense of the outfit, to the fortunate young man who is nominated by the committee to the naval cadetship annually granted to the ship by the Admiralty. The conditions for this are that the boy nominated shall have been two years on board the Worcester, be of good character, and in the first class in school work, and first section in seamanship. He must, moreover, be under sixteen and a half years of age on July 15 following the competitive examination, must be able to swim, and his parents must give the usual guarantee as to outfit and private allowance. The two years served on board count as if served on H.M.S. Britannia, and an extra year is allowed for good conduct and high attainments in examinations. Again, in the Royal Naval Reserve the Admiralty annually present several midshipmen’s commissions to the Worcester cadets, on the following conditions: That each cadet is a British subject, and possesses a first-class certificate from that training-ship; that a written notification of concurrence in the appointment be given by the parents or guardians; that the candidates approved of by the committee shall be under eighteen years of age, have been two years on board, be of good health of firm and steady behaviour, smart on duty, and of good address and manners. There are three terms in the year – Lent, Easter, and Michaelmas, commencing January, May, and September – and the payments for each term are £17 10s. for cadets in the upper school, and £15 15s. for those in the lower school, a charge of ten guineas per annum being made for uniform, etc. This consists of best blue jacket, waistcoat, trousers, cap, and badge; also one pair second quality blue cloth trousers and cap, and two uniform serge shirts. Pocket-money is permitted in weekly instalments, but the introduction of wine, spirits, or tobacco on board is rigidly prohibited.

Dressed overall for Prize Day

Manning the Yards

Manning the Yards

‘Worcester’ was London’s answer to HMS Conway which was the first training ship for cadets and had been established on the River Mersey just two years previously in 1859 for Liverpool’s burgeoning merchant fleet. Throughout their history ‘Worcester’ and ‘Conway’ were fierce competitors, and the two met regularly on playing fields and in boats in keen sporting rivalry.

Overlooking the rugby fields circa 1930

‘CONWAY v WORCESTER Boat Race Challenge Shield PRESENTED by few old boys in the east 1897’

In 1867 Queen Victoria instituted a Gold Medal presented annually to the best cadet.

”    Her Majesty has also been pleased to grant for competition a gold medal. to be annually awarded to the boy who shows the qualities likely to make the finest sailor ; these consist of cheerful submission to superiors, self respect and independence of character, kindness and protection to the weak, readiness to forgive offence, and above all fearless devotion to duty .and unflinching truthfulness. The medal will be open to boys who have been one year on board the ship, and have received not less than half the total marks at the previous quarterly examination. The commander, after conferring with the headmaster, shall select not less than three or more than five of the boys whom he considers to possess the qualities for which the prize is given. He shall submit these names to the boys who have been assembled for the purpose in the school, and each boy who has been on board six months previously to the time of distribution shall then and there vote for one of the boys so selected. The boy who obtains the highest number of votes shall receive the medal…..
”    The Trinity House and the P. & O. Company each give a valuable prize every year, and there are heaps of others-many of them valuable nautical instruments.”
(source: prospectus of the Worcester quoted in The Boy’s Own Paper 1897)

The famous Admiral Togo of Japan was a Worcester cadet in 1873, graduating second in his class, and Joseph Conrad, the famous Polish-born English author and merchant mariner sent his son to ‘Worcester’ in 1911. The eponymous character in his great novel Lord Jim (first published in 1899) was trained at just such an academy:

“but Jim was one of five sons, and when after a course of light holiday literature his vocation for the sea had declared itself, he was sent at once to a ‘training-ship for officers of the mercantile marine.’
He learned there a little trigonometry and how to cross top-gallant yards. He was generally liked. He had the third place in navigation and pulled stroke in the first cutter. Having a steady head with an excellent physique, he was very smart aloft. His station was in the fore-top, and often from there he looked down, with the contempt of a man destined to shine in the midst of dangers, at the peaceful multitude of roofs cut in two by the brown tide of the stream, while scattered on the outskirts of the surrounding plain the factory chimneys rose perpendicular against a grimy sky, each slender like a pencil, and belching out smoke like a volcano. He could see the big ships departing, the broad-beamed ferries constantly on the move, the little boats floating far below his feet, with the hazy splendour of the sea in the distance, and the hope of a stirring life in the world of adventure.
On the lower deck in the babel of two hundred voices he would forget himself, and beforehand live in his mind the sea-life of light literature. He saw himself saving people from sinking ships, cutting away masts in a hurricane, swimming through a surf with a line; or as a lonely castaway, barefooted and half naked, walking on uncovered reefs in search of shellfish to stave off starvation. He confronted savages on tropical shores, quelled mutinies on the high seas, and in a small boat upon the ocean kept up the hearts of despairing men—always an example of devotion to duty, and as unflinching as a hero in a book.
…After two years of training he went to sea, and entering the regions so well known to his imagination,…”

Finally, there is an excellent account of the large number of medals and honours awarded to Reggie’s OW colleagues (‘Old Worcesters‘) during the Great War in “WORCESTER’S WENT TO WAR” by Tony Maskell OW:

Although the Armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the armed forces of Great Britain continued to fight in the Baltic, this time the Bolsheviks, the “wash up” after WWI, concerning honours and awards continued right up to 1921.

In that period from 1914 to 1921, ex Worcester cadets were granted many gallantry awards, starting with two Victoria Crosses to Charles Henry Cowley, and Gordon Charles Steele, who many of us remember. Captain George Parker Bevan (1894) Albert Medal (AM), DSO, CMG. Our one and only Albert Medal (quite rare). It was for the action that Captain Bevan took to save the life of a Chief Officer trapped on a burning ship alongside the wharf at Murmansk, instituted by Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert for saving life at sea and not often awarded.

There were 51 Distinguished Service Orders (DSO) and 52 Distinguished Service Crosses (DSC); 9 Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), 46 Military Crosses (MC); 3 Air Force Crosses (AFC); 5 Distinguished Service Medals (DSM); one Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and 1 Military Medal (MM); the last three awards were for the other ranks, as well as 86 Mentioned in Despatches (MiD); and 87 Foreign awards, many of these were multiple awards to a single person.

Eventually 5 of these OW’s were knighted, 3 Admirals, and two Air Chief Marshals, one of those twice!; at the other end of the spectrum a LEUT Joseph Mair (1888) won a DSM as a sailor then a DSC as an officer. Two other DSM’s were awarded to LDGSMN William Albert Bennett (1866) at the age of 68, while serving on a minesweeping trawler, the other to LDGSMN Charles Henry Holmes (1866) also 68 and under similar circumstances.

Flight Captain John William George Price (1915) DSC*, DFC* Croix de Guerre RFC deserves a mention for receiving two DSC’s and two DFC’s and the Order of Leopold, he was very active in flying over France and Belgium, being shot down on a number of times, on one occasion, landing in the Furness-Ypres canal, by the end of the war, the medical records showed he had had 32 bullets in his body over the war.

There were a number of honours – as opposed to awards for gallantry – given to OW’s in the course of WWI. These were given to men whose efforts were away from the immediate battlefield or face to face action with the enemy.

There were 8 Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB); 9 Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG); 17 Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) – both Military and Civilian – 4 Commander of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) – given to Indian Army and Royal Indian Marine Officers. 35 Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE); and 9 Members of the Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). All that does not take into account of the Foreign decorations given by a raft of countries, France, Belgium, Italy, Russia (pre Bolshevik), Norway, Greece, Portugal, Spain, the USA and Japan. As previously mentioned these amounted to 87, mainly gazetted after Armistice Day.”





Reginald Henry Gill was born 2nd September 1883 in Putney in London. He was the second son of George Henry Gill (who was Chairman of the Chelsea Water Company, Reggie’s uncle Albert Augustus Gill was chief engineer of the same company) and Agnes Ellen Gill (née Bower). His elder brother Theo (George Theodore Gill) was just under two years older (born November 1881). Tragically Agnes died in childbirth. So both boys never  knew their mother. However their father quickly remarried, in 1884, to Mary Agnes Kingsnorth. I seem to remember being told by a family relation that Mary may have been a cousin of Agnes but I can’t find any evidence of this now. Tragically Mary also died only eight years later in 1892 of Hodgkins Disease. She was cared for by a specialist nurse, Eleanor Pritchard Cooke, who became a year later the third Mrs GH Gill and the mother of ARG:

“Then came  the time when I was sent out to special cases – one such patient was the wife of the Secretary of the Chelsea Water Company. She had been ill for about a couple of years in fact almost immediately after their marriage – with what the Drs. diagnosed as Hodgkins Disease. It was my task to travel about the seaside places in the hope that her health would improve but the disease made a rapid turn for the worse and so I took her home for it was cruel to cause so much discomfort unless it did her good…. So G.H.Gill took a house at Hastings … he had been left with two little boys by his first wife who died at the birth of the youngest and for some years had tried to run the house and the children with relations.”

The Bower family seems to have been a large and close-knit family and they must have been a strong support. In his wartime letters, Reggie mentions visiting members of the Bower family, when he was on leave from the trenches, with clear affection. I have a montage photograph of the Bower family dated 1905 (which is about the date that Reggie arrived in Australia), including Theo, Reggie and their father and it seems they continued to be close with the family whilst growing up.


Written on the back of the photograph:

Back Row L-R: Jack Richardson, Theodore Bower, Theodore Gill, Reginald Gill, Herbert Richardson, Mrs G.C.Bower, G.C. Bower, T.H.Bower, G.H.Gill, Violet Bower, Geoffrey Richardson.

Middle Row L-R: Marjorie Bower, Alfred Bower, Mrs Herbert Richardson (‘Aunt Edith’), Daphne Bower, Theodore Bower, Margaret Bower, Mrs. Theodore Bower, Mrs. T.H. Bower, Bernard Richardson.

Front Row L-R:  Phillip Richardson, Gerard Bower, Cyril Bower

Geoffrey, Jack, Bernard & Philip Richardson  were [Theo and Reggie’s] first cousins. Mrs Herbert Richardson was [Theo and Reggie’s] aunt who was sister to [Mary Agnes Bower, George Henry’s first wife, and Theo and Reggie’s] mother who died in childbirth when Reginald Gill was born.

GTG photo album - p.45

In this photo from Theo’s album, which I believe from other photos in the album is dated circa 1900 (I believe Theo was working as a clerk in the head office of the P&O shipping company in London), Reggie is in the uniform of his nautical training academy.

Reggie’s military records state that he went to school at Ovingdean Grange (completing sixth form):

Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 14.32.24

But it seems that Ovingdean Grange near Brighton was never a school. Ovingdean Hall in the same village however was – “In 1891, Ovingdean House became a young gentlemen’s school, which by that time was renamed Ovingdean Hall. Several extra school buildings were built by 1897. In 1941 the school moved to Devon during World War II, and the Canadian Army took over the Ovingdean site.” It was subsequently a school for the deaf and now is an English language school for international students. 

Ovingdean Hall

I assume Ovingdean was a prep school at the time (i.e. for 6-13 year olds) and ‘6th Form’ in the 1890s was not the same as 6th Form today (i.e. for 16-17 year olds).

Reggie’s military records also says he was schooled at “Worcester”:

This was HMS Worcester , now called the Thames Nautical Training College (more on this is a separate post).

GTG photo album - p.27

“Cutter “Water Lily”, Ramsgate 1897. My brother R.H.Gill (wearing uniform jacket of HMS Worcester). My father G.H.Gill and Rev. Cannon J Hasloch Potter (vicar of H. Trinity, Upper Tooting)”

GTG photo album - p.44

“My brother Reginald Henry Gill on my Rudge Whitworth.
The 1st machine ever to be sold for £10.10/-.
The 1st Australian Officer to get the M.C. in France 1914/18″