Alfred Rowbotham, Sgt 84145, 52nd Bn. Cheshire Regiment
Accidentally killed 9th August 1919 in Germany, aged 19
Alfred Rowbotham was born in 1900 in Macclesfield, the son of Mary Elizabeth and Edwin Rowbotham, a gas fitter. In 1901, one-year-old Alfred was living with his family at 12 Hope Street, Macclesfield. By 1911 the family had moved to 52 Waterloo St, Macclesfield and included another child, Kathleen, aged 4.
Alfred was educated at Daybrook Street School and won a scholarship to attend Macclesfield Grammar School for three years. After leaving school he worked at the Macclesfield Corporation Gas Works as an assistant chemist and attended St George’s Street Baptist Church.
In April 1918, after reaching the age of eighteen, Alfred was conscripted into the Cheshire Regiment and rapidly gained promotion. After serving for a time in Ireland, and attending several training courses, he was drafted out to Germany in March 1919. He died as a result of an accident when alighting from a train at Roisdorf Railway Station near Bonn.
Sergeant Rowbotham’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Advertiser on 15 August 1919:
ACCIDENT TO A MACCLESFIELD SOLDIER IN GERMANY – SAD END TO A PROMISING CAREER – At the early age of 19, after a studious, painstaking, and wonderfully successful career, the bright and cheery life of Sergeant A Rowbotham, of Waterloo Street, Macclesfield, has been cut short. In his school days he was under the tuition of Mr C Shaw, headmaster of Daybrook Street School, and won a free scholarship for the Grammar School, where he attended three years. In May 1915 he commenced as assistant chemist at the Macclesfield Gas Works. In the evening he followed up his studies at the Technical School, intending eventually to study for gas engineering at Manchester. He was successful in the following subjects at his last examination (1917): Geometry and Calculation, distinction; Building Sciences, first; Building Drawing and Construction, first; Engineering Drawing, second; Practical Mathematics, second.
Deceased joined the Cheshire Regiment in April 1918 and gained his first stripe in weeks. Eventually he was drafted to Curragh Camp, Ireland, where he went through a course of anti-gas training for officers and NCOs, and was the only one to pass out with distinction. The authorities then sent him to the Command School, Dublin, for advance courses, which he passed first class, and was made Corporal, being appointed anti-gas instructor, which duties he carried out until the Regiment was drafted out to Germany in March this year. Soon after arriving on the Rhine, he was asked to joint he education Staff, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. At the latter end of April he was allowed a few days leave, which he spent at home, and then proceeded to Newmarket to take and education course, passing with distinction. On his return to Germany he was lecturer to the troops up to meeting with the accident resulting in his death.
The sad news of his decease was conveyed to his family on Monday by telegram from Shrewsbury, and was … confirmed by his superior officers in letters received on Wednesday. From these letters it appears than the youthful sergeant was proceeding to Bonn. Arriving at Roisdorf Station he was stepping onto the platform, but was somehow intercepted by a railway coach and thrown violently down. He was taken to the waiting room and received every possible attention, and soon conveyed in an express train to the General Hospital at Bonn. Here it was found that so damaging was the shock that he had received that remedies were of no avail, and he soon succumbed, rendering amputation of a much injured leg unnecessary… The funeral took place on Tuesday at Bonn, and was attended by all grades of officers and men…
The deceased in his boyhood days was connected with the United Methodist Church in Waterloo Street, but previous to joining the colours he had been a member of the Rev E A Hobby’s Bible Class at St George’s Street Baptist Church. The sad news has cast a gloom not only on Lower Hurdsfield and deceased’s family, but on the talented sergeant’s wide circle of acquaintances and friends…
Sergeant Rowbotham’s death was also reported in the Macclesfield Times on the same date:
A FATAL ACCIDENT – YOUNG SERGEANT’S SAD DEATH – PROMISING CAREER CUT SHORT
We regret to state that Mr E Rowbotham, 52 Waterloo Street, has received intimation that his son, Acting-Sergt A Rowbotham, has accidentally met his death whilst serving with the 52nd Cheshire Batt in the Army of Occupation on the Rhine. The exact circumstances in which the accident occurred have not yet been communicated to Mr Rowbotham, but it is believed that whilst dismounting from a train in motion Sergt Rowbotham slipped beneath the wheels and was fatally injured. He was at once conveyed to No 47 general Hospital, Bonn, where death took place about two hours after admission. Sympathetic letters of condolence have been received from the Army Council and the Matron, No 47 General Hospital.
Previous to joining the Army at the age of 18 in April, 1918, Sergt Rowbotham was employed as an assistant chemist at the Corporation Gasworks and was a member of the St George’s St Baptist Chapel…
Letters of sympathy have been received by Mr and Mrs Rowbotham…
Dear Mr and Mrs Rowbotham – I hardly know how to express my grief at the terrible accident that befell your son yesterday… Sergt Rowbotham came to my company about two months ago, and quickly won the hearts and respect of the officers, his fellow NCOs and the men. As you know, he was an educational instructor, and his lectures, particularly in geography, always held the men from start to finish. He knew his subjects, and had a way of imparting his knowledge that many teachers might envy. He also entered into the work and games of the company with the keenest interest. For his young life to be so suddenly and tragically cut short seems so terrible. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred he could have got off that train without mishap. From all I can gather he did step off onto the platform, but was hit by one of the coaches int he rear and thrown down. If only he had waited those few seconds for the train actually to stop! … One of his fellow sergeants, Sgt Allen, went with him to Bonn, and at first the reports of his condition were hopeful, but later came the news that he had died. His funeral will be tomorrow at Bonn… all of us feel we have lost a good friend and cheery comrade… – Captain Douglas Ryalls, Sergeants’ Mess, “C” Company, 52nd Bn Ches Regt.
Dear Mrs Rowbotham – As Church of England Chaplain to the 52nd Cheshires, I feel I should like to write and tell you how sorry we all are to lose a sergeant who was so much respected by his comrades… Your son’s body was laid to rest this afternoon in a quiet little cemetery just outside Bonn, where about 130 British soldiers are buried… The number of the grave is 127, Plot C, Popplesdorf cemetery, near Bonn. – H S C Spurrier, Chaplain.
Sgt Rowbotham’s death was announced by the family in the Macclesfield Courier on 16 August 1919:
ROWBOTHAM – On August 9th, at the 47th General Hospital, Bonn, Germany (result of accident), 84145 Sgt Alfred Rowbotham, C Coy, 52nd Batt. Cheshire regiment. aged 19 years.
Sleep on, beloved, sleep, and take thy rest;
Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour’s breast.
We love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best;
Good-night! Good-night! Good-night!
Sergeant Alfred Rowbotham is now buried in grave ref. XII. C. 19. in Cologne Southern Cemetery. His father asked for the inscription “GONE FROM US BUT NOT FORGOTTEN NEVER SHALL HIS MEMORY FADE” to be added to his headstone.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 15 August 1919
Macclesfield Advertiser: 15 August 1919
Macclesfield Courier: 16 August 1919