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Gower, Hereward Roderick (Harry) (1893–1954)

from Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld)

A link in the chain of Gallipoli veterans was broken on Friday, when Lieut-Col Hereward Roderick (Harry) Gower passed away after a long illness at the age of 61.

Harry Gower was born at Gympie in 1893 at the time of the big flood in that centre. His father was a schoolmaster and after serving at several outside centres was transferred to the Allenstown school 44 years ago. Harry's first job in Rockhampton was in the shipping department of Messrs Walter Reid and Co., Ltd. He left that firm to enter a partnership in a commission agent's business at Mt Larcom, but the business had not been established long when war broke out and Harry Gower was in the first batch of volunteers to leave Rockhampton for Enoggera and became a private in the 9th Battalion, Queensland's first contribution of infantry to the AIF of the first World War. There was a good sprinkling of ex-soldiers of the British Army in the battalion.

Most of the battalion embarked on the Omrah on September 24, 1914, marching from Enoggera to board the ship. Harry Grower was among the first to board the ship. After some months of training in Egypt and then at Lemnos the battalion sailed to take part in the landing on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. Harry Gower was with the first parties to land. He was promoted to sergeant and then to sergeant-major, which rank he held until the battalion saw service in France.

Harry Gower was with the battalion during the evacuation of Gallipoli and he accompanied it to France. In the battalion's first big battle in France at Mouquet Farm, on the Somme, Gower was promoted to lieutenant on the field. He took part in all the battles in which the battalion participated and was mentioned in dispatches on two occasions.

On March 23, 1916, the 9th Battalion relieved the 11th and engaged in patrol work. A German party withdrew after meeting a 9th Battalion patrol. At dawn the following morning, Gower took a counter-patrol of 20 men out and the party soon encountered the enemy, which retired when attacked. Gower and his men followed, shooting while on the move and inflicting casualties. The patrol eventually penetrated the enemy wire and saw the Germans take cover in pillboxes. The patrol withdrew, the move being noticed by the Germans, who opened fire with machine guns and the patrol was kept to ground. Gower eventually got back to his own lines, four of the patrol being killed and two wounded.

Among other incidents in which Lieut Gower featured was the capture of a German officer. While on observation Lieut. Gower noticed the officer through the mist. He raced down a flight of steps from his post and captured the German.

In August, 1918, in fighting at Lihons, Lieut. Gower was awarded the Military Cross. The citation covering the award stated that he led his men with great courage and ability in repeated attacks under machine gun fire. At Bois de Crepey he engaged the hostile machine gun fire and inflicted heavy casualties on the crew. It was mainly owing to his dash that a number of the enemy were cut off and 40 prisoners taken. While consolidating the position Gower was severely wounded and evacuated.

For this exploit Lieut. Gower received the congratulations of General Birdwood, commander of the Anzac Corps. The general said that Lieut. Gower had displayed a complete disregard of danger and had also showed high qualities of leadership and courage in leading the assaults.

Towards the end of 1918 Lieut. Gower returned to Australia and early in 1919 was placed on the reserve of officers. He returned to business at Mt Larcom for a short time and then engaged in farming at Yarwun. While at Yarwun he married Miss L. Goodwin, a school teacher, of Biggenden.

After two years on the farm Harry came to Rockhampton and organised growers at the time of the formation of the COD. He was eventually appointed manager of the COD in 1925. He resigned in 1932 to enter business on his own account as a fruit and produce merchant.

When the Returned Soldiers' Volunteer Defence Corps was formed by the RSL in 1941 Harry Gower was placed in command until the corps was taken over by the army when he was promoted to Lieut-Colonel and placed on full-time duty in command of "C" Group, comprising the 13th Battalion (Rockhampton), 14th (Longreach) and 15th (Mackay) of the VDC. On the disbandment of the corps in 1946 he returned to his business.

For many years Harry Gover took a keen interest in returned soldiers' affairs. He was immediate past president of the Rockhampton subbranch of the RSSAILA and of the district branch. He was also a past president of the Anzac Club. Before his soldiering days Harry was a keen rower.

He is survived by his wife, one son (Roderick) and one daughter, Linnell (Mrs Dunshea, of Sydney).

The funeral moved from St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday, the coffin being draped with the Union Jack. There was a large attendance of returned soldiers to pay tribute to a brave officer. The services at the cathedral and crematorium were conducted by Canon J. E. Dale and a short service was conducted by Legacy, of which Lt-Col Gower was a member.

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Citation details

'Gower, Hereward Roderick (Harry) (1893–1954)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/gower-hereward-roderick-harry-13593/text24326, accessed 21 November 2019.

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