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.
Although 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:
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‘.
At 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.
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‘
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:
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.