Lieutenant K. (Joseph Kent) NOWELL

London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)
8th Battalion
(Attached: 1st Battalion London
Regiment [Royal Engineers])
Service Number:
(Formerly: Private 5736 Honourable
Artillery Company)
Date of Death:
16 August 1917
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 54

Personal History:

Joseph Kent (known as 'Kent', hence just the initial 'K' on the Buxton Memorial), was the son of Eliza Mary Nowell and the late Rev. Joseph Brewer Nowell (Wesleyan Minister) and was born in the June quarter 1895, at Braintree, Essex.

The 1901 Census (RG 13/2160) shows the family lodging at 11 Bridge Street, Bideford, Devon. He had two older siblings, John William and Jessica Mary (born in Belize, British Honduras), and two younger siblings, Miriam and Grace Tyne.
By 1911 (Census RG 14/21636) the family were in Runcorn, at 5 Stanley Villas, but Kent is not with them, or anywhere else, obvious, on the Census. However, 'The Edinburgh Gazette' 4th April 1913, lists the Appointment of Joseph Kent as a "Temporary Boy Clerk" with effect from 26th March.

Kent's father, Joseph Brewer, died on the 24th June 1915, at Wesley Villa, St James' Terrace, Buxton, so clearly his Wesleyan Ministry had brought him to the town (Methodist Church, Higher Buxton). Probate Records show that he left 729 3s 11d (729.20) to his oldest son, John William, a 'salesman'. [This has a relative value is 50,980 today - 2014]. Later Probate Records for "2nd Lt. Joseph Kent Nowell", dated 9th October 1917, show him leaving 112 2s 6d (112.13) to his widowed mother, Elizabeth Mary, now back at 6 Stanley Villas, Runcorn. [This has a relative value is 5,482.00 today - 2014]. Later she moved to 24 Norman Road, Runcorn, Cheshire.

Military History:
Joseph's Medal Index Card indicates he joined as a Private, the Honourable Artillery Company, though does not indicate when he entered France on active service, usually meaning after 1915 as he was not eligible for "The 1915 Star" medal. The London Gazette (2nd February 1917) lists his Commission into the London Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant, with effect from that date. Four days later a revised notice appeared stating: "Cadet Joseph Kent Nowell to be 2nd Lieutenant with precedence as from 19th December 1916".

The 1/8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles) was part of the 140th Brigade in 47th (2nd London) Division. However, once Joseph was attached to the 1/1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers) he moved to the 167th Brigade in 56th (London) Division.

The notation in 'The Sphere' indicates that Joseph was posted to France in March 1917 and in 1917 his Division were engaged in The First Battle of the Scarpe (9th - 14th April) and The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3rd - 4th May) - phases of the Battles of Arras 1917.

On the day he was killed Joseph was fighting in The Battle of Langemarck (16th - 17th August) - one of the phases of the Third Battles of the Ypres. The Battle of Langemarck began on the morning of 16th August 1917 at 4.45 a.m., with a tremendous artillery barrage. Not only were the many German strongpoints bombarded, but a creeping barrage was laid to keep the defenders' heads down as the British infantry advanced. The speed of the barrage advance would have been calculated to be the same as the infantry's pace. However, the British bombardment failed to clear the enemy lines and by early evening exhausted remnants of units were back or near their start lines. British casualties were estimated at 15000.

Initially, the men advance quickly but suddenly found themselves in mud over a metre deep and had to go around to the left. Those behind could not consolidate the ground captured and enemy troops who had been bypassed began sniping from the rear. Joseph's 167th had to withdraw as the 169th Brigade was seen pulling back through Glencourse Wood, and at 3.00 p.m. the German troops launched a counter-attack, only stopped by the intensity of British artillery fire. The 167th continued to be pounded by the enemy bombardment for the rest of the day.

Joseph's 56th Division were decimated: ...the leading waves of the 2nd Londons (Royal Fusiliers) and 5th Londons (London Rifle Brigade) pressed boldly though Glencourse Wood and on into Polygon Wood and were, quite simply, never seen again. A similar fate befell the leading waves of the 8th Middlesex on their left. A company of men just disappeared. German counter-attacks thrust all other units back to their start line

Sometime, somewhere during this disastrous day, Joseph was killed in action, just four months after receiving his Commission. He has no known grave and is commemorated on The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.


· I am grateful to Judy Rieck for the photo of the Menin Gate inscription
· I am grateful to Robert (Great War Forum) for the photo of Joseph from 'The Sphere' Magazine
· 'The British Divisions at Third Ypres, John Lee, in Passchendaele in Perspective. The Third Battle of Ypres,
   edited by Peter H Liddle, London, 1997, p.218. (Ref: C.W.G.C)

Link to CWGC Record
2/Lt Nowell's name on the Menin Gate Memorial
Dedication of the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres
Lt Joseph Nowell
... about The Battle of Langemarck  
.... a Map of The Battles of Third Ypres