Sergeant Rowland Hill,
1/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's(West Riding) Regiment. Service number 3205.
Rowland was born in Lothersdale in 1896 and he was baptised at Lothersdale Parish Church on 3rd May.
The son of Joseph and Ethel Hill. His father was a clerk in a worsted and cotton factory. His mother Ethel died aged 24 years in February 1897, as his father later remarried (to Mary).
Aged 5 years in 1901, he was living at 'Mill Yard' Lothersdale with parents Joseph and Mary Hill and sister Gertrude. In 1906, aged 10 years he was a pupil at Keighley Trade and Grammar school and left there in 1910 to attend Bradford Technical College. He also served as Assistant scoutmaster of the Silsden Parish Church Troop of Boy Scouts. In 1911 the family was at 32, South View Terrace, Silsden and he was working as a warehouse assistant in a cotton factory.
He entered the Army in October 1914. and went to France on 29th June 1915 with the 1/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment.
He would have served with the battalion during the following period, this is described by a general description of the Battalion's activities when he was serving with them:
In July 1915:
The battalion was serving in the trenches at the Yser Canal Bank, North of Ypres. This was vaired by stints at Elverdighe Chateau, Hull, Sarragossa, Pelissier and Modder Farms,
The next couple of months were a period of mutual attrition, which were spent enduring enemy artillery and bombing attacks. These were returned of course but it was a stationary fight with no movement of the front lines. Several men were wounded and killed during these periods. When not in the trenches they were in divisional reserve when it was of course rather quieter.
At the Divisional rest Camp, they were inspected by General Sir Herbert Plumer KCB, commanding 2nd Army on 1st September, he was accompanied by General H. Mends (secretary West Riding County Association) and Lord Scarborough, (Chairman of the West Riding County Association and Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire.)
This was followed a few days later by an inspection by Lt. General Sir J. L. Kier KCB, commanding Fourth Corps but for this the men remained in the camp lines and were inspected there.
The battalion remained in the same trench positions throughout September and October with the usual periods as reserves in the rest camps having been relieved mostly by the 1/7th Battalion West Riding Regiment. Occasionally they suffered prolonged heavy bombardments causing a lot of trench damage and casualties which included a number of Keighley area men.
A number of drafts of men were added to the battalion strength during this period, mostly coming in groups of between twenty and thirty NCOs and men.
On the 27th October a selected number of 1/6th Battalion officers and men were inspected by His Majesty The King, although Sgt Rowland Hill was not named in the lists.
By the end of October they were serving in the trenches at 'The Farms' and suffering occasional casualties from snipers and artillery attacks.
By mid November 1915, the weather and bombardments having causing several parapet slippages, the men had to endure waist deep water and mud, many suffering from trench foot. Platoons were relieved every 24 hours with hot meals being served but the conditions appear to have been awful and regular changes of socks were mentioned in the war diary pages. Some men suffered from pneumonia and had to be evacuated.
The cold wet weather continued through December and a large bombardment on the 19th caused considerable casualties and a gas attack on the 22nd caused many casualties. Despite these serious attacks, the trenches were held.
In January 1916 the battalion was at Herzeele and later, Wormhoudt, a number of route marches took place and the battalion was inspected by General Plumer on the 30th, with a number of decorations been awarded to officers, NCOs men. General Plumer also made a farewell address to the men.
In early February at Wormhoudt a number of lectures were given on the subjects Physical training, Bayonet fighting, Trench standing orders under company arrangements.
They then packed up and marched to Longeau and then to Amiens and on buses to Molliens Vidame. Half of the battalion billeted at Molliens Vidame and the other half at Dreuil-Les-Molliens.
A route march on 10th February took them to Oissy, Cavillon & Fourdinoy having stopped for the night at Breilly-Sur-Somme.
On to Bouzincourt and then Senlis.
This period at Senlis saw remarkably fine weather and a number of training sessions on operations took place for snipers, bombers and signallers, plus scouts and Lewis gunners. In early March they moved on to Martinsart in glorious weather and further training ensued in their attack positions. From here they moved to Bouzincourt on the 4th and received orders to move into trenches.
The trenches were in a poor state and the men were issued with thigh length gum boots while they spent time bringing the trenches up to standard.
The relief periods were sent at Leavillers and Toutencourt and the battalion them moved to Hedauville Camp at the end of the month.
The first week of April 1916 saw them on working parties in Aveluy Wood but poor weather in the second week saw heavy going for the men. They weren't under any attacks though and no casualties were mentioned in this period.
Later in the month they were at Naours for training, parades and route marches, followed by divisonal tactical exercises.
The month of May brought better weather and the men continued training and drilling plus another tactical exercise. They trained pretty much every day.
In June 1916 they marched to Forceville and carried out further training, plus working parties at Forceville, Headauville and Authille. Medals were awarded to a number of officers and men and later, reconnaisances were carried out on crossings of the River Ancre. Towards the end of the month they moved to Contay, then Warloy and to their assembly trenches at Aveluy Wood for a divisional attack which was scheduled for the 30th June but actually took place on the 1st July after a protracted artillery bombardment. Zero hour was at 7.30 am when the assault began. They moved to the East side of the Ancre and occupied the Crucifix dugouts. The battalion suffered just three men wounded. The stayed at Crucifix dugouts and then moved to Belfast city in Thiepval Wood in support of the 5th Battalion West Riding Regiment who were attacking the enemy trenches opposite Thiepval. This however, was cancelled. The enemy shelled the wood very heavily but the battalion again suffered few casualties until they withdrew from Thiepval Wood to Aveluy Wood when a large number of the men were wounded by enemy shell fire.
The next day was quiet and then on 5th June they were shelled heavily with a large number of casualties, mostly wounded. This continued for a couple more days.
A move to Northern Bluff on 10th June saw a fine day and fairly quiet with some shrapnel fire and light high explosive shelling on our trenches. This was repeated each day until the end of the month, with varying degrees of enemy shelling and consequent levels of our casualty numbers.
The weather was hotter by the beginning of August and the men remained in the trenches, suffering occasional shelling and casualties. This continued until the 9th August when a shell landed amongst a group of men. Lieutenant H. H. Peet was wounded in the face by shrapnel, Sergeant Rowland Hill and Corporal T. Walker were killed. Sergeant G. Fieldhouse, Private J. Potter and Company Sergeant Major W. J. Robinson were wounded by shell splinters.
Rowland Hill was aged 20 when he was killed on 9th August 1916 and he was buried in Paisley Avenue Cemetery at 57d.Q.30.d.3.2.
Keighley News obituary dated 19th August 1916:
SILSDEN - KILLED BY A SHELL - FINE TRIBUTES TO A SERGEANT
Still another addition to the already long list of Silsden casualties, Mr Joseph Hill, of South View, Silsden, received information that his son, Sergeant Rowland Hill of the West Riding Regiment, had been killed instantaneously by the bursting of a shell. A high compliment was paid to the work done by Sergeant Hill in letters dated August 6, written by two of his officers, which have been received by his parents.
Major A.B. Clarkson writes as follows: "It is with great regret that I have to write and inform you that your son was killed early this morning by the bursting of a shrapnel shell. He was assisting and superintending his men, who were working in a new trench, and the same shell wounded his officer and another sergeant.
"Please allow me to express my deepest sympathy with you in your great loss. Your son was in my old company, and I had formed a very high opinion of him. He was - I say it without exaggeration - the most promising NCO I have come across. He was so very keen on his work, paid such close attention to everything he was doing; he was capable, intelligent, and above all, a brave man. It was my privilege to see a good deal of him, and I always found him to be a delightful fellow and in every was one of the cheeriest I have known. He never failed me in anything, and would without doubt have made a name for himself had he been spared. Since I handed over the command of the Company to Captain Clough, I have on several occasions asked how your son was doing. The reply was always the same, and only the day before he was killed Captain Clough told me what an excellent NCO he was.
I understand that death was instantaneous. He will be buried this afternoon in a little cemetery where several of of our men lie, and the service will be read by our chaplain. It is my intention to attend. Your son has made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country willingly and cheerfully, and I trust that this will be some consolation to you in your great grief."
The other letter is from Captain Clough, who says: "It is with the very deepest sorrow that i have to tell you of the death of your son, which took place at 1.15 this morning. At the time of his death he was working at a new communication trench, being in charge of the platoon. He was standing talking to another sergeant and an officer when a single shell burst right amongst the three of them, and a small piece of shrapnel entered your son's head just above the right eye, killing him instantly. I was on my way to visit his platoon at the time, and arrived there ten minutes after it had happened. The body was at once taken away on a stretcher, and will be buried today in a cemetery about a quarter of a mile behind the firing line. We are all very much upset. He was a very fine
fellow and will be very much missed in the battalion. Such men as he are very hard to replace. If I had been asked to say who was the most popular NCO in my company I should have said 'Sergeant Hill' His men would have followed him anywhere, and we are all fearfully upset. He never undertook a job without completely finishing it, and there was never any need to supervvise any of his work. His men have lost their best friend, and their leader and the battalion has lost a first class NCO. Please accept the very deepest sympathy of myself, brother officers, NCO's and men of this company."
Sergeant Hill, who was only 20 years of age, was educated at the Keighley Trade and Grammar School, and had also completed a session at the Bradford Technical College. Before enlisting in October of 1914 he was assistant scoutmaster of the Silsden Parish Church Troop of Boy Scouts.
Keighley Trade and Grammar School's 'Keighlian' magazine obituary:
Sergeant Rowland Hill was a pupil from 1906 to 1910. After leaving school he entered business with his father as a manufacturer at Silsden and was in that employment until he entered the Army in October, 1914. Before entering the Army he did service as a volunteer in the Boy Scouts, of which troop he was Assistant Scoutmaster. He went to France in June, 1916, and at once volunteered as a member of the Entrenching Battalion. He was killed in action, August 9th, 1916.
As a boy at School he was always a most cheerful and zealous pupil and was ever ready to do the duties alloted to him. From the testimony which his officers have given of him it is quite evident that these qualities shone forth in his daily actions in the Army.
Major Alfred B. Clarkson in a letter to his father says:-- "Please allow me to express my deepest sympathy with you in your great loss. Your son was in my old company, and I had formed a very high opinion of him. He was - I say it without exaggeration - the most promising NCO I have come across. He was so very keen on his work, paid such close attention to everything he was doing; he was capable, intelligent, and above all, a brave man. It was my privilege to see a good deal of him, and I always found him to be a delightful fellow and in every was one of the cheeriest I have known. He never failed me in anything, and would without doubt have made a name for himself had he been spared. Since I handed over the command of the Company to Captain Clough, I have on several occasions
asked how your son was doing. The reply was always the same, and only the day before he was killed Captain Clough told me what an excellent NCO he was."
Keighley News dated July 28, 1917 page 7:
THE LATE SERGEANT ROWLAND HILL.
Amongst the many reference to old boys who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their King and country in the recent issue of the Keighley School Magazine is one of the late Sergeant Rowland Hill, of Silsden, which reads as follows: "Sergeant Rowland Hill was a pupil at the Keighley Trade and Grammar School from 1906 to 1910. After leaving the school he entered the business of his father as a manufacturer at Silsden, and was in that employment until he entered the Army in October, 1914. Before entering the Army he did service as a volunteer in the Boy Scouts, of which troop he was assistant scoutmaster. He went to France in June, 1916, and at once volunteered as a member of the Entrenching Battalion. He was killed in action August 9, 1916. As a bot at school he was always a most cheerful and zealous pupil, and was always ready to do the duties allotted to him.
From the testimony which his officers have given to him it is quite evident that those qualities shone in his daily actions in the Army."
He received the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service.
He is remembered on the Silsden War Memorial and also in the 'Keighlian' Magazine Roll of Honour for Keighley Boys Grammar School.
After the war Rowland's grave (along with a number of other men) was moved from Paisley Avenue Cemetery to concentrate the graves into a larger cemetery called Lonsdale No. 1 Cemetery. This was done so that the great number of smaller cemeteries spread all over the western front could be cleared and the land returned to farming. His final burial place in Lonsdale Cemetery at Authuille is at Plot VII., Row E, Grave 4.
Rowland Hill is remembered on the Silsden War Memorial.
He is also remembered in the 'Keighlian' Magazine Roll of Honour for Keighley Boys Grammar School.
He received the 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service.
England and Wales birth records
1896 Baptismal record
British Army Medal Index Card and Medal Rolls
The Keighlian Magazine. (from Andy Wade's private collection)
Keighley News archives, held at Keighley Library Local Studies Room.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission.