A Dead Statesman
I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
After last year’s “Remembrance” post about the life and death of and memorials to Norfolk heroine Nurse Edith Cavell I decided to carry out some research of my own. I chose to follow the life to death of a young man born in Norfolk who died on the battlefield far away on the Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula. I managed to visit several of his Memorials in England and maybe one day will visit Gallipoli itself. 2015 will be a big year for visitors to the area to pay their respects. The significance of the Gallipoli Campaign is felt strongly in both New Zealand and Australia. ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day (25 April) is commemorated annually by both countries.
Private Howman in a letter home :
[… we get a lot of prisoners & rioting sometimes there are hundreds of Australians & New Zealanders wounded here from The Dardanelles. its a terrible sight to see them maimed for life you would not think it possible how some of them could live …]
Marshall Howman was born in June 1887 in Whitlingham, just south of Norwich. He was the eldest child of Mark and Celia. Mark was a herdsman and Celia was in service at ‘the big house’ wherever they moved to and the family did move around the country. By 1901 Marshall and his parents were living at Stenigot in Lincolnshire with additional sisters and brother : Lena (born in 1891), Hilda (in 1894), Maxwell (in 1895) and Kathleen (Kit or Kitty) who was born in Cheadle [Staffs] in January 1900. Later, in a letter home Marshall tells his family that he ‘came across an old pal I went to Cheadle School with he is in the 6th Manchesters back from the Dardenelles.’
By 1911 when Marshall was 24 he had three further siblings, born at Strensham in Worcestershire where his family had been living for several years : Ruth (born in 1903), Mabel (in 1906) and Norman (in 1910). By this time, although Marshall was still living at home (and adored certainly by his little sister Kit then aged 11), Lena (aged 20) was already making her own way and living in London as a domestic servant in the Mumford Family home in Westbourne Park Crescent, Paddington.
Strensham and its War Memorial
© Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Next year will see the Centenary of The First World War; the, so-called, “war to end all wars”. When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 Marshall (then 27) and his parents and most of the rest of his siblings were living in Corner Cottage, Strensham in Worcestershire. At some point very soon after; Marshall volunteered to join the Worcestershire Yeomanry The Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. He was assigned to No. 2 Troop, D Squadron.
The 1st Worcestershire Yeomanry was mobilised in Worcester on August 4, 1914 as part of the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade. On August 11 the regiment moved to Warwick, with the rest of the brigade and on August 14 the brigade proceeded to Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. The brigade moved to Newbury, Berkshire, on August 30, where it joined the 2nd Mounted Division. On November 17 the regiment and the rest of the division moved to Barningham, Norfolk, then on to Kings Lynn. Mention here of King’s Lynn and Norfolk reminds me of :
The 1999 BBC film “All the King’s Men” tells the story of the men of the Sandringham Estate who signed up in 1914 and fought in the Gallipoli Campaign
On the reverse of a picture postcard of Bristol dated 9 April 1915 Marshall tells his family that he’s due to sail at midnight from Avonmouth :
In fact the records state that it was on April 11, 1915 that the regiment sailed for Egypt from Avonmouth, Gloucestershire, on H.M. Transport Saturnia, arriving in Alexandria on April 24.
After disembarking the regiment went into camp at Chatby, near Alexandria. Here is a letter dated 6 June from Kom el Dik Fort and another dated 13 June (his birthday was in June) from Chatby Camp, Alexandria. In civilian life Marshall had been an assistant herdsman and he seems happy to have charge of horses at the Camp.
His letters home show that he had neat, clear handwriting and a very nice turn of phrase reflecting a reasonably good standard of education for an assistant herdsman a century ago. He was a loving and caring brother and son.
However, when the regiment was notified that it would be going on active service on August 10 its horses would be left behind. This must have been a blow for Marshall. On August 14 the regiment – 366 men strong – embarked for Gallipoli on H.M. Transport Ascania. On August 17 the transport arrived at the Greek island of Lemnos, and there the men transferred to the H.M.S. Doris. The following day (August 18), the regiment landed at “A” Beach, Suvla, under shellfire.
Here is what happened on 21st August 1915 :
“The 29th Division assaults 112 Metre Hill and Scimitar Hill, and 11th (Northern) Division assaults Green Hill and the “W” Hills in the Suvla sector, with the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division in reserve, out of sight of the Turks. The intention is to capture Scimitar Hill and to proceed on, if possible, and ultimately is to capture these positions, and thus protect the units scattered across the Suvla Plain from Turkish shellfire. At 3:30 p.m., after the failure of the 29th and 11th Divisions to take their objectives (due to strong Turkish defences, lack of adequate artillery support, lack of proper orders and lack of rest) the Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the 2nd Mounted Division and the 10th (Irish) Division, is detailed to proceed against the original objectives. The assault is organized in five waves, each wave consisting of one of the five mounted brigades and spaced 200 yards apart. The Worcestershire Yeomanry, along with the rest of the division, moves off across the Salt Lake, under fire from Turkish artillery (the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars advancing behind the Worcestershire Yeomanry). Halfway across the Lake orders are given to advance at the double. Due both to Turkish resistance and confusion, the regiment is able to advance only as far as the line held by the 29th Division. The regiment digs in on Green Hill, but at 2 a.m. on August 22, it is ordered to retire to Lala Baba. No ground is gained in the assault.” [Information from The Gallipoli Association]
The regiment reported 26 men killed and wounded in the assault, though only two fatalities were known to have occurred. One of these was Private Marshall HOWMAN, No.2613, aged 28. He was killed in action in the assault on Chocolate Hill, Suvla, on August 21, 1915. His name is commemorated on Panel 19 of the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula.
Marshall listed on the Helles Memorial [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]
The Helles Memorial 2013 [Photo kindly supplied by Keith Edmonds of The Gallipoli Association]
Back home Marshall’s family were devastated. Marshall’s name was eventually listed on the wall-mounted Honours Board in St George’s Chapel at Worcester Cathedral and was inscribed in the Roll of Honour there.
St George’s Chapel, Worcester Cathedral. The Honours Board hangs below the flags.
Marshall’s name on the Honours Board
Marshall listed in the Worcestershire Regimental Roll of Honour Book described below
He is also listed on the Honours Board in St John’s Church, Strensham :
Original War Memorial in Strensham
More recently his name, and those of the others who fell in both World Wars, has been inscribed on the War Memorial in the village of Strensham itself.
Names recently added to the Strensham Memorial including Pt M. Howman
Marshall’s parents soon returned to Norfolk. There had been mention of their going in the letters between Marshall and his mother. Towards the end of the decade they paid for this memorial to him in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Trowse-by-Norwich.
Trowse churchyard memorial now overgrown, weather-beaten and almost forgotten
[In Loving Memory of MARSHALL the dearly loved son of Celia and Mark Howman. There was more but sadly the rest of the text has disintegrated]
MARSHALL HOWMAN was my Great Uncle and KIT (KATHLEEN) was my Grandmother.
I have memories of Gran telling me about her beloved brother Marshall and her pride in the memorials to him in both Norfolk and Worcestershire. I have a number of Marshall’s original letters but sadly no photograph has materialised.
I’m extremely grateful to the following for information and inspiration. My sister Kathy for her research into the broader Howman family. My friend Ann and her husband who have been to Gallipoli and lent me books and sent me links on researching military records and helped in many other ways. My three contacts at The Gallipoli Association who provided me with material about the Worcestershire Yeomanry’s movements and Marshall’s final days; thank you Stephen, Keith and Mal.
“We have done that which was our duty to do”
[St. Luke XVII.10]