"Shell shock was a horrible thing. I saw quite a bit of it. People would lose control of themselves and start shaking. They would sometimes try to climb out of the trench, and they had to be held down. They didn't know what they were doing."
British Rifleman Robert Renwick
CHARLES JOHN COWLARD
Charles Cowlard was the son of William and Ann Styles Cowlard. The 1901 census shows him, aged 18, as having the occupation of milkman and residing with his parents at Model Cottages, Riverhead. His younger brother, Arthur aged 14 was also in residence. His sister, Gwendoline Ellen was not shown on the census but had been born in 1884. Another brother, William had been born in 1881 and, again, was not shown on the census. All of the Cowlard children were baptised at St Mary's Church, Riverhead.
In the 1911 census, only John, of these children, is shown as being at home. He is aged 28. Also in the house, which by then was at 18 Sunnybank, Riverhead, was a grandson of Charles' father called William Edmund Thorne who was 6 years of age. Gwendoline had at some stage married a Harry Arthur Thorne and William Edmund was their son. For reasons unknown he was staying with his Grandfather on the day of the Census. Charles, by this time, had the occupation of "Bricklayer Labourer".
In the Summer of 1912 Charles married Jessie Botting. On Christmas Day December 1916 they had a son who was, appropriately, named Noel.
Charles enlisted at Tonbridge and joined the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment. His war records do not survive and so little is known about his service. A small part of his brother Arthur's record survives. He too enlisted into the RWKR. Unlike Charles, he survived the war.
In October of 1917 Charles would have likely been involved in the battle known as Poelcappelle.
He survived this.
The Battalion diary reveals that on 1 January 1918 his Battalion was still in Belgium, near Ypres. On 2nd January 1918 the Battalion relieved the 2/5 Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment who were in reserve at a camp known as "Baboon Camp". This was on the North East side of the Yser canal at Boesinghe (Boezinge) just North West of Ypres. To get there they travelled from Woestan (Woesten) to Elverdinghe (Elverdinge) and then on to Boesinghe. They camped at Baboon camp until 6th January and then at 3pm they moved from their reserve position to the front line to relieve the 7th Battalion the Buffs (East Kent Regiment). By 8pm the relief was complete. On 7th January they were "holding the line".
The Battalion diary for 8th January reads as follows:
"Under cover of a heavy barrage, Bosche attacked our front line posts, one of which was captured with
three of the garrison."
It seems likely that Charles was killed during this assault. A picture of the plaque recording his death appears below.
Noel would have just had his first birthday when the telegram announcing his Father's death arrived. Noel went on to enlist in the armed forces and can be seen arriving into Liverpool on a ship in 1954 and again in 1956 with what appears to be his wife (Phylis N0ra). It seems he may have been involved in the Suez conflict. Noel and Phylis were by then living in Bessels Green. Phylis died in Tonbridge in 1974 and Noel died, in Sevenoaks hospital, in 1975.