LOWES Mark 1891 – 1916

MARK LOWES 1891 – 1916

6/1375 Private Mark Lowes, 1/6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 8 January 1916, aged 33.  He was buried at Perth Cemetery (China Wall) Belgium[1] and is commemorated on Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

Mark Lowes was born 1891,[2] the son of Thomas and Jane Lowes.  In 1901, the family lived at Framwellgate Moor, Durham.  There were at least 6 children, the first 4, all born at Dipton, County Durham:

  • Isabella bc1886
  • Mark born 1891
  • Thomas bc1898
  • Sarah Jane (Sally) bc1900
  • Elizabeth (Bessie) bc1902
  • Frances bc1909

Thomas worked as a coal miner (hewer).[3]

 In 1911, 19 years old Mark was a lodger with the Teasdale family living at New Brancepeth Colliery, County Durham where he worked as a, “putter”.[4]

In 1915, Mark Lowes married Annie Allison.[5]  Mark and Annie had 1 child, Joseph William born 1 November 1915.  At this time, they lived at 24 High King Street, Witton Park.  At this time, Thomas and Jane and family lived at 2 High King Street. [6] A pension was awarded to Annie for herself and 2 children.[7]

30 March 1919, Mark’s widow Annie married Corporal J. Martin and lived at Witton Park.[8]

Military Details

14 April 1911: Aged 19 years 11 months, Mark Lowes enlisted into the Territorial Force, joining his local battalion, the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry and being given the service number 6/1375.  He was 5’6” tall, worked as a miner and was considered fit for the Territorial Force. [9]Upon the outbreak of war, he was mobilized and embodied 5 August 1914.  The 1/6th Battalion was formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 was under the orders of the 151st Brigade 50th (Northumbrian) Division.[10]  Other battalions were:[11]

  • 1/7th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/8th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/9th Battalion, DLI

26 March 1915, Private M. Lowes signed the agreement for him to serve overseas. [12] The battalion entered France 19 April 1915.[13]  On this day, Private M. Lowes made his will bequeathing the whole of his property and effects to his wife, Annie, then living at 28 High Thompson Street, Witton Park.[14]

DLI Cap Badge

16 April 1915: The 50th Division moved to France.  In early actions, the Division suffered heavy casualties at the Second Battle of Ypres when it took part in the Battle of St. Julien 24 April to 5 May, the Battle of Frezenberg 8 to 13 May and the Battle of Bellewaarde 24 to 25 May.[15] Following this introduction to warfare on the western front, the 151st Brigade was joined by:

  • 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in June 1915
  • 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment in December 1915

The following provides a brief account of the situation into which 1/6 DLI found themselves, a week from home and in the thick of it.  One Witton Parker, 20 years old, Lance Corporal Edward Haley, 1/6 DLI was killed in action 26 April 1915.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. [16]  Private Mark Lowes was gassed 16 May and required hospital treatment for his wounds.

The SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES 14 April – 2 June 1915 [17]

22-23 April: The Battle of Gravenstafel

 “Although Germany had signed the clause of the Hague Convention [29 July 1899] which prohibits the use of asphyxiating gas, the unscrupulous leaders now made use for the first time of this treacherous weapon.” [18]

No history of St. Julien, then a small village to the north east of Ypres, would be complete without a reference to the events of 22 April 1915, when poison gas was used for the first time by the Germans.[19]

About 4pm, a strange opaque cloud of greenish-yellow fumes rose above the German trenches heading for the French Colonial troops.  Many fell gasping for breath in terrible agony.  Terror spread through the ranks, especially among the African troops.  Panic followed spreading from the front to the rear lines.  German troops advanced protected by a heavy barrage and intense machine gun fire.  The French colonials fell back several miles towards Ypres and the Germans took Steenstraat, Het Sas and Pilkem.  The withdrawal of the French exposed the left flank of the Canadian 3rd Brigade who were obliged to fall back before they rallied and recovered part of the lost ground.

The 50th [Northumbrian] Division had just arrived in Belgium. The strength of the Division on land in France was 572 officers and 16,858 other ranks.[20]  Steenvoorde, west of Ypres, had been allotted the Division.  The last units arrived 22 April and the men would have expected a short period of training behind the line.  That was not to be.  At 10.40pm, news came in of a German attack near Langemarck/Bixschoote.  10 minutes later an order was received to have 6 companies of the York & Durham Infantry Brigade fully equipped, ready to move by motor-bus.  At 11.29pm, another order came requiring all units to stand by billets, fully equipped and ready to turn out immediately.  The Northumbrian Division did not take part in any fighting.

24 April – 4 May: The Battle of St. Julien

24 April: the enemy’s guns opened fire and for the first time the York & Durham Brigade was shelled, wounding several men and the Northumbrian Division suffered its first casualties of the war.  The 4th Yorkshire Regiment [the Green Howards] and 1/4th East Yorkshires were detailed to move up to the line near Potijze Chateau.  The Germans occupied St. Julien by 3pm and were moving out of the village southwards when they were attacked by the 4/GH and 4/EY. 

“Casualties during this affair were severe but the counter attack was completely successful and besides preventing the Germans from making any further advance on the 24th reflected the greatest credit upon the 2 gallant battalions.”

5/GH and 1/5th DLI moved forward from the Yser Canal to St. Jean to support the 3rd Canadian Brigade and both came under shell and rifle fire.

The night of 24/25 April was miserable with constant rain and heavy German shell fire.  The Northumberland Infantry Brigade and Durham Light Infantry Brigade were at Brandhoek and Vlamertinghe respectively and did not move until late in the day.  The Northumberland Brigade got to Weieltje by 4.30am, 25 April.  The DLI Brigade received a succession of orders, one countermanding the other but eventually 1/6th DLI moved to beyond Ypres and relieved 7th & 9th Shropshires in the line and 7th & 9th DLI bivouacked in Potijze Chateau grounds under shell fire.  8th DLI marched to Zonnebeke via Vlamertinghe, Ypres, Potilze and Verlorenhoek frequently being shelled.  Then they were ordered to relieve the 8th Canadians at Boetleer Farm. They arrived there at 3am (25th).  The situation evidently was chaotic.

26 & 26 April: fighting.  As an example of the ferocity of the fighting, the casualties recorded in the Diary of the “A” and “Q” Staff of the Division to the morning of the 27th (inclusive) are as follows:

Officers [total 85]

  • Killed 26
  • Wounded 45
  • Missing 14

Other Ranks [total 2644]

  • Killed 332
  • Wounded 1,143
  • Missing 1,169

Captain B.M.S. Sharp described the scene:

“at dusk, through that hell on earth by now strewn with dead animals and bits of everything recognisable in the way of equipment, through St. Jean, now utterly destroyed and slightly more objectionable than even Ypres; church gutted, graveyard shelled and a heap of coffins and battered headstones.” [21]

Later research, records that between 24 April and 2 May, 6/DLI lost 3 Officers and 50 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds, 42 on 26 April including Lance Corporal E. Haley.[22]  As indicated above, 14 May 1915, Private M. Lowes was gassed and subsequently treated at hospital at Rouen, discharged to a convalescent camp then transferred to the reinforcements depot at Harfleur, discharged to duty then he re-joined his unit in the field, 9 June 1915.

The Divisional History, written in 1939, concludes: [23]

“Thus ended the Battle of St. Julien, which will for all time be memorable in the history of the Northumbrian Division.  Tried in the fire, the Territorials had not been found wanting; their pre-war training, their courage, their tenacity and endurance, had all been put to the critical test and they had emerged, praised and honoured by the Regular Army, by whose side they had fought the common enemy.”

Recognition of the efforts of the Canadians and the Northumbrians was evident:[24]

“The French colonial troops who were opposed to the main attack broke and ran – some of them ran 10 miles – and it was only by the determination of the Northumbrian Division and the Canadians, who held out against far superior numbers, that the Germans were prevented from walking straight through to Ypres.”             Lawrence Rowntree, Friends Ambulance Unit

24 May 1915:   The Times reported on these events and the exploits of the Northumbrian Division:

“Consider what is meant by the fight of these Northern Territorials.  Men only lately out from home, most of whom had never seen a shot fired in battle, were plunged suddenly into the most nerve racking kind of engagement.  They had to face one of the worst artillery bombardments of the war and the new devilry of the poison gas.  There was no time for adequate staff preparation, the whole was a wild rush, a crowding up of every available man to fill the gap and reinforce the thin lines.  They were led by officers who, a year ago, were architects, solicitors and business men…where we escaped annihilation…by sheer dogged fighting quality of our men and their leaders.  The miners of the North are a sturdy race in peace, both in work and sport.  The second battle of Ypres has proved them to be one of the finest fighting stocks on earth.” [25] 

Private M. Lowes re-joined the battalion as it was ordered to Sanctuary Wood on the outskirts of Ypres, a place noted for intense enemy shelling and digging trenches!  It was then posted to a relatively quiet front, Kemmell to Armentieres.[26]

11 August 1915: At Armentieres, Private M. Lowes sprained his ankle and was admitted to hospital at Bailleul then discharged to join his unit 30 August 1915.[27]

In December, the battalion was back at the Ypres Salient, in and out of the line in trenches near Sanctuary Wood.  Christmas Day, the first the battalion enjoyed on the Western Front was spent in reserve in huts at Dickebusch.  Plum puddings and other delicacies were enjoyed without too much interference from enemy guns. A draft of 50 men was received on 2 January 1916, scabies being found in 6 men who were immediately sent to hospital.

4 January: 1/6 DLI relieved 5/Border Regiment in the trenches where it remained until the 9th.  The tour was marked by intermittent shelling and a few casualties:[28]

  • 5 January: Privates Robinson and Vickerstaffe were killed.
  • 7th: Private Whitfield wounded.
  • 8th: Private Lowes killed

Casualties were kept low largely due to the heightening of the trenches and rebuilding of traverses which strengthened positions.

Private M. Lowes had served a total of 4 years 260 days in the Territorial Force, 264 days overseas.[29]

Awards and Medals

Private M. Lowes was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[30]

MEDAL ROLL Card Index

Burial

Private M. Lowes is buried at grave reference I.L.5, Perth Cemetery (China Wall).  His body was exhumed 12 January 1920 from a battlefield burial site.[31]

Effects

Mark Lowes’s widow Annie received his pension and effects.[32]

Summary

Mark Lowes married Annie Allison in 1915.  His parents, he and wife lived in various addresses in Witton Park including 2 King Street, 25 Thompson Street, 28 High Thompson Street and 24 King Street.  In 1911, Mark joined the Territorial Force, 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  He then worked as a miner employed by the Bolckow Vaughan Company.  He was embodied in 1914, left Folkestone for Boulogne with the British Expeditionary Force in April 1915.  He was gassed 24 May 1915 and sent to hospital for treatment.  Private Mark Lowes was killed in action 8 January 1916 when the battalion was in a relatively quiet sector near Armentieres, hit by artillery fire.  He left a widow, Annie and 2 children.


REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.349 Lanchester 1891 Q2

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.327 Auckland 1915Q1

[6] Army Form W.5080

[7] Army Form F.3 – Form 50D dated 15 August 1916. Note: I can find no second birth attributed to Mark and Annie Lowes

[8] Army Form W.5080

[9] Army Form Medical Inspection Report dated 24 April 1911

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[11] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[12] Army Form E.624

[13] Military History Sheet

[14] Copy of Will dated 19 April 1915

[15] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1915.htm

[16] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[17] The following references have been used and are recommended for further details:

“The Fiftieth Division: 1914-1918” (1939) Everard Wyrall 

“The Story of the Sixth Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry from April 1915 to November 1918” (1919) Captain R.B. Ainsworth MC

“The Faithful Sixth: a history of the 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry” (1995) Harry Moses

[18] “Ypres and the Battle of Ypres” Illustrated Michelin Guides to the Battlefields 1914 – 1918 p.14 [reprinted G.H. Smith & Son 1994]

[19] “The Pill-Boxes of Flanders” [1933] Col. E.G.L. Thurlow p.18 reproduced in Gun Fire No.9 Northern Branch of the Western Front Association undated.  A good account is given.

[20] Wyrall p.40

[21] Wyrall p.42

[22] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[23] “The Fiftieth Division 1914-1919” 1939 Everard Wyrall p.48

[24] “A Nightmare in Three Acts” Lawrence Rowntree published in Gun Fire No.10 Northern Branch of the Western Front Association undated

[25] Moses p.34

[26] Moses p.44

[27] Army Form B.103

[28] Moses p.53

[29] Military History Sheet

[30] Medal Roll card index, Roll for Individuals entitled to the 1914-15 Star dated 27 September 1919 and V & BW medals dated 20 March 1920

[31] CWGC

[32] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.252492 and Pension Claimant card index