Maurice Robinson Crowther – never to be a prisoner

Private 15/252 1st Leeds Pals

1888: In March John Crowther, a chemist, married Elizabeth Robinson, and a year later their first child, John Arnold Crowther, was born.

1891: In December of this year Maurice, their second child, was born in Skipton. His father was running a stationer’s and drug store, and the family was living in Grassington, at Black Horse Yard, Garrs Lane. (Find My Past 2015)

1901: On this census their address was Bell Lane, a road that appears to have gone, and in

1911: they were at Ridley House. Maurice was still living at home, as a student, though his elder brother had left, and John senior was now a manufacturer of mineral water.

1914: When war was declared Maurice was 22, and one of the early volunteers, as his low army number shows. Despite living in Craven, some distance from Leeds, he volunteered for the Leeds Pals, joining them on 12th September. Many men from the Craven area joined the various battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment, but Maurice appears to have been the only one to join the Pals. He was posted to C Company, 10th Platoon, No.6 Section.

1915: After training with the battalion at Colsterdale and Ripon Maurice went to Egypt, arriving on 21st December, and they all shared Christmas Dinner with the Bradford Pals, who had travelled on the same ship.
In March of this same year Maurice’s mother had died, which meant, perhaps fortunately, that she never knew of his death the following year.

1916: Early in the New Year the battalion was sent to France, to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.
Maurice was one of those who went over the top on 1st July, and didn’t come back. Initially he was reported as missing, but his body was never found, and eventually his death was confirmed. He is now remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. The CWGC records give his age as 26, but according to his birth date he was several months short of his 25th birthday. (Commonwealth War Graves Commission 2015)

1917: Final confirmation of his death and an obituary notice appeared in the Craven Herald, 4th May 1917:
We regret to record the fact, now officially communicated from the Infantry Records Office, York, of the death of Private Maurice Robinson Crowther, son of Mr. John Crowther, Ridley House, Grassington. The intimation reached Mr. Crowther on Sunday morning that the sad event occurred on July 1st 1916. Pte. Crowther joined the Leeds Pals on September 12th 1914, was trained at Colsterdale Camp, moved to Ripon Camp in the spring of 1915, and in September of that year to Salisbury. In December 1915 the battalion sailed from Liverpool for Egypt. Their boat collided with a French steamer at dead of night, cut it in twain, but, with the exception of two or three, saved all its crew. Soon after the boat was chased by two German submarines, one torpedo just missing its object by about ten yards. The battalion arrived in Egypt on December 21st, and the Leeds Pals and the Bradford Pals, who journeyed by the same boat, enjoyed roast beef and plum pudding in that ‘land of sand and lice’. In January 1916, the two battalions were ordered to France, where they suffered very severely, as hundreds in the West Riding know to their cost.
The Chaplain to the Battalion wrote months ago that Pte. Crowther had given his life to King and Country. It was his wish to be killed rather than be taken a prisoner – in fact he had vowed never to become a prisoner himself nor take one – the latter determination being based upon his experience of the Germans, whom he stigmatised as “brutes and beasts”.’ (Craven’s Part in the Great War 2015)

He was subsequently awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Ancestry 2015)

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

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