Name & Rank:
Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Herbert Rowland, D.S.O.
Birth date & Location
Mr. & Mrs. H. Rowland
Thus far, our efforts to track down information about Reginald Herbert Rowland’s early life and family have been unsuccessful. A 1922 wedding announcement identifies him as the “eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Rowland, of Salisbury,” but it remains unclear whether he grew up in the city, or whether his parents were simply living there at that time. Regardless, as of 1911, Rowland was employed as an Insurance Clerk. During the war he was listed as an employee of the Head Office Staff in the Fire Insurance Department at Phoenix Assurance Co., Ltd., a large, London-based firm.
Rowland returned to Phoenix after the war and in 1929 relocated to Wellington, New Zealand to “take up his duties as superintendent for New Zealand for the Phoenix Assurance Company, Ltd. of London.” He continued in this position for several years, and by 1936 was working as “general manager of the company in New Zealand.” He travelled both locally and internationally for work, his name appearing repeatedly on registers for passenger ships, commercial airlines, and hotel guests that were published in New Zealand newspapers throughout the 1930s.
Rowland was active in his professional community and in 1933 was involved in forming a precursor to today’s Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance. By the early 1940s, he had left Phoenix and was working for the Wellington Investment Trustee and Agency Company, Ltd., which was local to his home in suburban Karori.
Rowland and his wife, born Doris Ivy Winterton, were married in her hometown of Royal Tunbridge Wells on August 3, 1922. The couple had two children: a son, Gerald Herbert, who sadly died at the age of 11 on 14 April 1936, and a daughter, Peggy.
In many ways, Rowland and Peirs had parallel war experiences. Along with Edward A. Fellowes, they made up the trio of officers who consistently led the 8th Queen’s over the course of the war. In a 1924 newspaper article, Rowland and Peirs were remembered as “two of the first officers to join the Division in August, 1914.”
Rowland was a Captain and Peirs a Major when they embarked together for France on August 31, 1915. Upon their return to England four years later, both men had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and earned the D.S.O. for “distinguished services during active operations against the enemy.” Like Peirs, Rowland served in every major campaign waged by the British Army from 1915 to 1918 and made it through the war relatively unscathed, in physical terms. He suffered the effects of a poison gas attack while stationed near Ypres in the spring of 1916, possibly on April 30 or May 22. He returned to England for medical treatment on June 2 and did not rejoin the battalion until nearly a year later on March 13, 1917. Within a week he took temporary command of the battalion, a position he relinquished three days later when Peirs, who at that point still outranked him, returned from leave.
Nevertheless, Rowland, who was indispensable to the battalion, continued to serve as temporary commanding officer at various points over the next several months. He oversaw training efforts in December of 1917, and it was he who led the 8th Queen’s into the trenches east of Le Verguier on 18 March 1918. Rowland managed the battalion’s early response as they endured what one officer later called “the most dramatic attack of the war.” While a sick Peirs made his way to the front lines, Rowland took the crucial step of relocating Battalion Headquarters and maintained communication with company commanders for as long as possible despite severed telephone wires. Facing what looked like certain defeat and possible death, Rowland made the difficult decision to “burn all papers and books in the [Battalion] Orderly Room in order to avoid the possibility of them falling into the hands of the enemy.” After a bitterly fought defense of the village, he was one of 11 remaining officers. He once again took over command from Peirs on 25 March to manage the last six days of the battalion’s retreat from their culminating fighting action of the war.
On 1 October 1918, Rowland left the battalion to attend a course at the Senior Officers’ School at Aldershot. He remained there until after the Armistice and returned to France on 31 December 1918, just in time to attend the 8th Queen’s officers’ New Year’s dinner. Incidentally, the program from that dinner, bearing Rowland’s autograph alongside those of the other attendees, was one of the few pieces of memorabilia Peirs kept after the war.
In the years that followed, Rowland remained involved with commemoration efforts to at least some degree. He took part in the 1924 dedication of the 24th East Surrey Division monument in Battersea Park, when the local paper noted both he and Peirs were “well remembered by Worthing residents.” After moving to New Zealand, he joined the local Returned Soldiers’ Association and, with other members of his chapter, advocated for the observation of ANZAC Day in perpetuity.
Death date & Location
Rowland died on 24 January 1974 in his adopted hometown of Karori, New Zealand. He was 88 years old. He is commemorated with a memorial inscription at Karori Cemetery, the country’s second largest cemetery.
Thanks to John Wells, Senior Archivist at Cambridge University Archives & Special Collections, for research assistance.
“ANZIFF: History.” Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance, accessed 26 April 2021.
“Cemetery Details: Rowland, Doris Ivy.” Wellington City Council, accessed 4 May 2021.
“Cemetery Details: Rowland, Gerald Herbert.” Wellington City Council, accessed 4 May 2021.
“Cemetery Details: Rowland, Reginald Herbert.” Wellington City Council, accessed 4 May 2021.
“Cemetery Details: Rowland, Reginald Herbert [Memorial Inscription].” Wellington City Council, accessed 4 May 2021.
Romano, Gail. “NZRSA: The early years of working for soldiers.” Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira, updated 17 February 2016.