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Rediscovered; The tragic tale of young Archie Gowing

PUBLISHED: 12:11 25 August 2014

Young Archie Gowing, second left at the back, with friends, perhaps from the church or from school at Bull Close.

Young Archie Gowing, second left at the back, with friends, perhaps from the church or from school at Bull Close.

Archant

On the day the Evening News and the Eastern Daily Press published the names of the thousands of men in Norfolk who lost their lives in the First World War... I found a letter I had mislaid for 12 years.

William and Alice Gowing pictured in around 1880. She died in 1909 and William in 1915.William and Alice Gowing pictured in around 1880. She died in 1909 and William in 1915.

It had been sent to me in 2002 by Jack Weavers of Norwich and was about a member of his family. But where did I put it? The names printed prompted me to look for a book I had about the Great War and when I opened it – the letter, with photographs and documents, fell out.

This is the story of one of those men whose name we published. He was Archibald Percy Gowing, a private in the Norfolk Regiment, who was killed in action on September 4, 1916, one of the city boys who went off to war and never returned.

Archie was born in Norwich back in 1897. His parents were William Gowing and Alice (nee Perfect). He was the youngest of a family of four boys and four girls and they lived in the parish of St James at The Paddocks, Silver Road.

His father was a boilerman at Steward & Patteson brewery and Archie went to Bull Close School and was a choir boy at St James Church but in 1909 his mother died.

Archie left school and was employed at Colman’s Carrow Works in the wood box department from November 1911 until September 14 1914. His reference described him as “honest, industrious and skilful at his work.”

He left the factory to work at Buntings (now Marks & Spencer) until joining the army in January 1915 at the age of 17. In November of that year his father died, so Archie and other members of the family had to fend for themselves.

They had to leave the family house in Mousehold Street because it was owned by the brewery. Archie stayed with his sister, Mrs Ong, who was Jack’s mother, in Bull Close Road when he was on leave. She had married a petty officer in the navy.

So young Archie went off to war. He was posted with the Norfolk regiment to Bridlington and from there went to France and straight into the bloody and savage Battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916.

He was reported missing with the family receiving these letters before the one which said: “It is my painful duty.” Archie had been killed in action on September 4 1916, two months short of his 19th birthday.

Jack also said in his letter: “My mother had more than her share of bad news during those years. On May 3 1917 she received a communication from the Admiralty saying HMS Derwent had been sunk in the channel and as CPO William Ong’s name did not appear on the list of survivors, he must be presumed drowned.”

Life would never be the same again for this family – one of many torn apart by war.

Archie was one of the many fallen, but is not forgotten.

If you were related to any of them please get in touch and I can pass these photographs and documents on to you.

Write to me at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email me at derek.james2013@gmail.com

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