COWELL – Richard Cowell (1893-1918) & William Cowell (1897-1915)

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War Memorial – Hadleigh, Essex

The St James The Less church WWI plaque lists W Cowell as the last soldier to die in 1915 and R Cowell as the last soldier to die in 1918, and the memorial plaque names them as William Cowell and Richard Cowell. William and Richard were brothers.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission for Richard states:


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission for William states:

  • Private W COWELL
  • Service Number: 12076
  • Regiment & Unit/Ship: Essex Regiment, 9th Bn.
  • Date of Death: 17 December 1915
  • Age 18 years old
  • Buried or commemorated at BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY, France. IV. G. 38.
  • Country of Service: United Kingdom
  • Additional Info: Son of John and Mary Cowell, of High St., Hadleigh, Southend-on-Sea. His brother R. Cowell also fell.

Richard & William COWELL

Richard COWELL was born mid 1893 at Little Barford, Essex and his younger brother William COWELL was born early 1897 in Hadleigh, Essex.

Richard and William were the eighth and ninth (of nine) children born to John COWELL and Mary BUSH. Their father was an agricultural labourer (amongst other things) from Cambridgeshire whilst their mother was born in Great Barford, Essex. Census records show John worked as an agricultural and farm labourer (1871/1881), shepherd (1891), farm stockman (1901), then as a gardener in 1911.

John and Mary married 2nd Jan 1879 at St Mary the Virgin, Great Bardfield and their first child was born eight and a half months later. The family lived in Little Bardfield up until Richard’s birth in 1893, then moved to Hadleigh where there last child William was born in 1897 (they lived right next to the Castle Hotel pub on the High Street). John and Mary lost their sixth child at age 2 around the same time their seventh child was born, and shortly after moving to Hadleigh their fifth child died aged 10. Their second and third children were twins.

  1. Annie Cowell (16 Sep 1879)
  2. Lily Cowell (28 Mar 1882)
  3. Rose Cowell (28 Mar 1882)
  4. Mary Cowell (11 Apr 1884)
  5. Ellen Cowell (1885 – 1896, age 10)
  6. John Cowell (1888 – 1890, age 2)
  7. Emily Cowell (17 Nov 1890)
  8. Richard Cowell (1893 – 19 Nov 1918, age 25)
  9. William Cowell (1897 – 17 Dec 1915, age 18)

In 1911, Richard was age 17 and working as a shop assistant, whilst 14 year old William was an errand boy. A few weeks after war broke out in 1914, youngest son William enlisted aged 17 as a Private in the 9th Essex Regiment. After nine months of training, he was sent to France on 30th May 1915 and on 17th Dec 1915 died at the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station in Béthune after sustaining very severe wounds to both legs. He received the 1915 Star, Victory and British War Medals. William was buried at Béthune Town Cemetery in the Pas-de-Calais of France with the inscription:

Rest Eternal
Grant Him Lord
Let Light Perpetual
Shine Love From Home

Richard enlisted a year and a half later during May 1917 aged 24 (he was unmarried). He first served as a Private in the 25th Reserve Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, then was transferred to the Labour Corps. 281st Area Employment Company. He died in France nine days after peace was declared on 19th Nov 1918 from pneumonia aged 25, and received the Victory and British War Medals. Richard was buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery near Fouilloy in the Somme region of France, and it appears to have been his sister Rose who organised the headstone, which reads:

Their Names Liveth
For Evermore

John and Mary’s eldest daughter, Annie, married John CHAPMAN in 1902 and had five children by the time her brothers had died (although they sadly lost one in infancy). Their second daughter Lily married William James FAUX in 1912 and had one child together in 1914. These were John and Mary’s only grandchildren.

John and Mary remained in the same house in Hadleigh with their daughter Rose. John died in 1924 aged 72 and Mary in 1932 aged 79. Rose looks to have continued to live in the family home until her own death in 1960 aged 78 (unmarried). Her twin sister Lily died very shortly after her. I don’t know when John and Mary’s eldest daughter Annie died, nor their daughter Mary (who was living in Hadleigh in 1939, age 55 and unmarried). Daughter Emily also remained unmarried and died in 1983 aged 92.

Family Tree

Both of Richard and William’s grandfathers were agricultural labourers, as were all four great grandfathers. Their great grandfather Edward COWELL was also a soldier in the 20th Regiment of Foot for 151/2 years between 1799-1815 and fought in the Napoleonic and Peninsular Wars. He received the Egyptian Bar in 1801, along with the Army Gold Medal and Military General Service Medal. He was discharged in 1815 after receiving a gunshot wound to the thigh (age 34).

Link To Hadleigh

Richard and William’s family moved to Hadleigh just before William was born, where their parents remained until their deaths.

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