Rowley Snowden – life saved by hip flask

Rowley Snowden Hip flask

Title: Rowley Snowden Hip flask
Description: Indentation where bullet hit; by permission of the Snowden family by-nc

Rowley Chaplin Snowden is remembered in St John the Baptist Church, Windlesham, on the St Albans* memorial board in the south porch there. Both he and his wife, Elsie (Elizabeth) are buried in the churchyard.  Rowley died in 1931 and Elizabeth in 1946.

Rowley Snowden (also known as ‘Chips’) and Elsie (née Fletcher) married on 24th October 1907 in the Parish of Eastham near Chester. Residents of Windlesham for many years, they moved there probably in 1908 shortly after their marriage. The 1911 census shows that they lived in Windlesham Cottage, London Road, with their three sons, Arthur Chaplin, Geoffrey and Raymond. The house remained in the family until 1986 when Chaplin (Chappie), who lived there with his wife, died.

Rowley Snowden - Windlesham Cottage (800x486)

Title: Rowley Snowden - Windlesham Cottage (800x486)
Description: By permission of the Snowden family by-nc

When war was declared, Rowley was working as a Member at Lloyds. He was a Liveryman of the Worshipful  Company of Saddlers (as were his children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren). He joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps on 8th March 1915 and was discharged from there to his commission as a Second Lieutenant in 3/5th Bedfordshires (attached Royal Warwickshire) on 25th August  1915. His application form confirms him to be in good health and he was declared fit for service.

Rowley Snowden (669x800)

Title: Rowley Snowden (669x800)
Description: By permission of the Snowden family. by-nc

He was sent to France on 16th July 1916 but had to leave his unit on August 27th 1916 when he was wounded, in the fighting for Mouquet Farm, part of the Battle of Pozières (23rd July-3rd September 1916). Family records show that, when he was shot, he was somewhere between Constance and Skyline Trenches. His life was saved by his hip flask (still held by the family complete with bullet indentation).

Rowley Snowden hipflask rear

Title: Rowley Snowden hipflask rear
Description: By permission of the Snowden family. by-nc

Although he relinquished his commission on 4th August 1917, he continued to attend medical boards until April 1918 when he was discharged on the grounds of disability. The Board noted the causes to be, firstly, a gunshot wound to the left elbow and, secondly, pulmonary tuberculosis.

Rowley returned to Windlesham Cottage where he was to live for the rest of his life. His family report ‘he never recovered his full strength but was happy being in a place he loved’.

During the period of Rowley’s service overseas, Elsie became part of the VAD. Red Cross archives show that she carried out 192 hours of pantry duties in Windlesham Auxiliary Hospital over 1916-1917.

Elizabeth Snowden

Title: Elizabeth Snowden
Description: By permission of the Snowden family by-nc

*St Albans was a chapel of ease on London Road, Windlesham.

My thanks to the family of Rowley and Elizabeth Snowden (Annabel Lang, Janie Deyong and David Snowden) for providing photos and information about their grandparents.


National Archive WO374/64041

British Red Cross WW1 personnel  index card

Windlesham PCC Burial  Records

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