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Lance Corporal 4078135 Maurice Whybert Rowlands
The South Wales Borderers.
Died 14 February 1942, aged 26.
Maurice's father, Alf, was a haulier using horses and wagons and at his peak employed 14 men, operating from Rock House Farm, Sandy Lane. Business faltered after a railway side line was built to Ifton Quarry and the family became the first tenants of Lawrence Farm, one of the first small holdings houses, still standing in the centre of Lawrence Crescent.
His mother, Ellen, was a good church woman, which kept him out of the chapel! He helped with the farming and haulage of wood, worked for Mr Drower (the local specialist in cakes and pastries) and later worked at Ifton Quarry. One day the men were making for safety after explosive charges had been set when Maurice was knocked out by a piece of falling rock. He was rescued by the foreman, Jack Creed (father of Caerwent villager Betty Protheroe).
Maurice was quite tall with dark hair, a very active and happy young man. He was always busy working, chasing girls, hunting and shooting. He was never engaged or married. Evenings were often spent socialising around Earlswood or Woolaston in the company of haulage friends. On Sundays he would be out shooting with P.C. Butler and Mr Pettifer, gamekeeper for Liddell’s, of Shirenewton. He also kept goal for the Caerwent football team. He was an active member of the Imperial League, which was later renamed the Young Conservatives
He was an expert poacher! Maurice was so fast he caught rabbits with his bare hands. Once he shot two hares with one barrel of his shotgun. Having seen a pheasant after the berries in the hedge at the bottom of the Shirenewton Hall estate (roughly where the Factory fence is now) he shot it, gave it to his young nephew and said "RUN!". Mr Pettifer heard the shot but by the time he had made his way down through the trees, the pheasant was safe inside Lawrence Farm!
At the start of the war he was in the Territorial Army, stationed at Beachley. His cooking talent was well used by the army. The Territorials were posted to Southampton and, just by chance, a battalion of the South Wales Borderers was due to embark to India. Two of the Borderers absconded and somehow Maurice was enlisted in the place of one of them. Thus, unexpectedly in India, he made the most of his opportunity, sending back many photographs and interesting letters. At this time he had Bill Marsh for a comrade. Life was good for the troops in India. They kept racing pigeons. Pigeons kept disappearing but the natives always had a good stock of replacements for Maurice and Co. to purchase. The replacement pigeons bore amazing resemblances to the missing ones!
However, Maurice fell ill and the Battalion moved on to serve in the Mediterranean leaving him behind. If he had been an Officer he would have been shipped back to Britain and probably recovered but, as a Lance Corporal, he was sent to a military hospital where he eventually died on St. Valentines Day, 1942. He was buried in the war cemetery in Delhi. All that his mother received back from the War Office were his buttons and three medals.
JN from Stan Rowlands (nephew) Oct 1997