William was the eldest of four children and his youth was spent in farming communities near the Welsh Borders. He was sent to boarding school in Hereford; Broomy Hill Academy, which boasted a 'schoolroom lofty and well ventilated and a large playground and football pitch'; and which he attended until he was 16 years old. By this time William’s family had moved to Tennersfield Farm, Garway, Herefordshire; where his father was a tenant farmer on the Garway Estate.

Aged 18, at the outbreak of The Great War, like so many of his generation across Europe, William clearly felt compelled to ‘join up’; and in 1914 he was enlisted in the 1st/1st Battalion, The Herefordshire Regiment, as 235590 Pte WH Fowler.

On 16 July 1915, by which time William was a Rifleman in C Coy, the Battalion sailed from Devonport, England, to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. On 9 August 1915, the Battalion was landed at Suvla Bay, as part of the effort to break the deadlock on the Gallipoli peninsula.


Herefordshire Soldiers at Suvla Bay (www.courtyard.org.uk)

The Battalion landed at 0720 on ‘C’ Beach, Suvla Bay, and initially undertook a number of fatigue duties, carrying stores from the shore into the beachhead, until the early afternoon; whilst shelled, no casualties were incurred. At about 1600, the Commanding Officer was sent for by the Divisional GOC, who gave him verbal directions as follows: ‘Col Bosanquet of the Sherwood Foresters is anxious about his right flank, he’s near the ‘K’ or ‘D’ of Asmak Dere. Place yourself in communication with him. I do not think you will have much to do or will get a dusting, get away as quickly as possible’; despite a request, no written orders or further detail were provided.

The Battalion advanced to contact with B and C Coys leading, A and D Coys in echelon. They advanced into difficult terrain to fight against a significant but poorly understood enemy, with negligible support on their flanks. From 9 - 12 August 1915, the Battalion was in almost constant action, suffering many casualties; by nightfall on 12 August, what was left of the Battalion was commanded by a Captain. In retrospect, this period of the Gallipoli campaign was considered by the Ottoman Turkish Commander (none other than Mustafa Kemal, or Kemal Ataturk - the founder of Modern Turkey), the crux of the Gallipoli campaign. In his dispatches, the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, General Sir Ian Hamilton reported the following: ‘Some of the units which took part in this engagement acquitted themselves very bravely. The Divisional Commander speaks with appreciation of one freshly landed battalion of 53rd Division, a Hereford battalion, presumably 1st/1st Herefordshire which attacked with impetuosity and courage between Hetman Chair and Kaslar Chair, above Azmak Dere on the extreme right of the line.’

It would appear likely that William was captured during this period of confused fighting. After his capture, William appears to have been moved, along with other POWs captured at Gallipoli, to a network of construction camps along the Berlin to Baghdad railway. Some of the most demanding construction work was in the Taurus mountains, laying the railway through the ‘Cilician Gates’: a pass through the Taurus Mountains, from the Anatolian Plateau to the Cilician plain near the Turkish/Syrian border. Over a 100km distance, the railway passed through 37 tunnels, with a cumulative distance of over 14km.

William appears to have been part of the workforce at Bagtche (modern Bahce), also known as Camp No.7, where they built a 200m tunnel, which is still in use today.

William died, aged 21, on 8 September 1917, and was buried at Bagtche. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission recovered fallen soldiers from the cemeteries where they had been interred in Southern Turkey, and re-interred them at Baghdad (North Gate) Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery.

William is remembered in Garway, Herefordshire, where Fowler remains a common surname, but it is believed that none of his descendants have been able to visit his grave in Baghdad. My parents live in a neighbouring village, and through them, I was passed a request to find William’s grave.

On 31 January 2019, a party of British, Croatian, Danish and Canadian soldiers, from NATO Mission Iraq, whilst undertaking duties in support of the Iraqi Armed Forces, visited William’s grave; they paid their respects and left a note in English and Arabic on his grave:

‘William: a young man of Garway, Herefordshire, United Kingdom; who like so many others sacrificed his life, in an effort to deliver a better world for us all ... never forgotten’




Garway WW1 Memorials - William Fowler, by Joan Thomas. http://herefordshirelightinfantrymuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/1915-Aug-RegtlHistory.pdf; accessed 26 January 2019.

https://www.courtyard.org.uk/9-photographs-of-the-hereford-regiment-during-wwi/? spektrix_bounce=true; accessed 26 January 2019. https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/1226-kut-pow/; accessed 26 January 2019. http://www.trainsofturkey.com/pmwiki.php/Network/CilicianGates; accessed 26 January 2019.

http://www.gutenberg-e.org/steuer/steuer/archive/AppendixA/Turkish%20Prison%20Camps/ center_map.html; accessed 26 January 2019.