Topic: Percival (Percy) John Sherbrook Lowe

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Percival John Sherbrook Lowe (Service no. 27023) was a First World War soldier with links to Wharenui School and Riccarton

Percival John Sherbrook LowePercy was the first of six children born to John Thomas Lowe (1866 -1935) and Lillian Ann Horler (1869 - 1950). He was born on 31 May 1893 in Christchurch followed by; Ivy Lillian (1897, she died that year), William (1899, also died that year), Muriel Thelma (1904 - 1988), Leicester Rewi (1906 - 1907) and Norman Alister (1906 - 1976).

Percy was the second pupil enrolled in the new Wharenui School on the day the school opened on 28 January 1907. The attendance register reveals that he had previously attended the Fenadlton School up to the fifth standard. He completed the sixth standard at Wharenui School in 1907after which he went on to work as a warehouseman for the Christchurch firm Sargood, Son and Ewen Ltd.

On 24 January 1914 Percy married Josephine Francis Sweeney (b 1897) in the Christchurch Roman Catholic Basilica. They would have three children; Verdun Earle, Marie Joan and Colin Alister. Percy enlisted in the army in May 1916 and was in Trentham Camp in June. On his attestation form he stated that he had served in the Highland Rifles in Christchurch and his home address was 34 Rotherham Street, Riccarton.

His reliable character saw him make temporary sergeant in F Company, 22nd Reinforcements. Percy embarked from Wellington on the Troopship No 77 'Mokoia' on 12 February 1917. They sailed for Plymouth, England the next day. Their voyage took them via Albany, Australia (24 February) then Capetown, South Africa (18 March) and Free Town, Sierra Leone (6 April). Arriving at Plymouth on 2 May the 22nd Reinforcements went mmediately to Sling Camp for further training and exercises. Percy was posted to temporary Corporal in the 2nd Company, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment. In July he was transferred to the Infantry Reserve HQ and in September was posted to temporary Sergeant. On 12 February 1918 he was transferred once more, this time to the NZ Clerical Section as a temporary Corporal. A few days later he recieved orders to depart for France and he reverted back to ranks as a private.

He arrived at Etaples on 16 February and then Abeele on 19 February but became sick and was admitted to the 51st General Hospital at Etaples late that month. By the end of March he was well enough to be discharged back to the Military Base Depot at Etaples, France to rebuild his strength for future assignment. His time finally came several weeks later when he was ordered to join his unit in the field. He arrived at the 1st Canterbury Battalion on 6 June 1918 just as the NZ Division were sent into reserve after their involvement in holding back the big German Spring Offensive.

In July the NZ Division went back in to the line near La Signy and by the end of the month the presence of the New Zealand Division near Rossignol Woods caused the Germans to withdraw from the Woods. In early August the 1st Battalion received 150 American soldiers from the 317th U.S. Regiment for induction into trench-fighting by the 1st Battalion's officers. By mid-August Percy's 2nd Company was heavily involved in outflanking the German trenches in the highly successful attack on the Serre-Puisieux Road sector. The NZ Division was to capture Bapaume and territory further beyond this, earning high praise from Douglas Haig the British commander-in-Chief for their role in the Arras Campaign. But the New Zealanders pushed on well beyond to the fringes of Havrincourt Wood and by early September held both this Wood and Haplincourt Wood to the east. On 14 September the New Zealand Division went into reserve, the 1st Canterbury based in huts west of Biefvillers.

On 26 September the New Zealand Division moved back into forward areas in preparation of their part in the attack on the Hindenburg Line. Percy's 1st Canterbury Battalion was one of the four New Zealand battalions in the vanguard of the attack over the Scheldt Canal (also know as the Canal St Quentin or Escaut Canal). On the 28 September the battalions of 2nd Brigade moved to a rendezvous near Havrincourt and by early morning of the 29th had assemled in their start positions.The attack began on 29 September under a creeping barrage at 3.30am with 1st Canterbury tasked with capturing Welsh Ridge stradling La Vacquerie and then the area southeast of that town.

The first objective was easily achieved by the 12th and 13th Companies but the second objective assigned to the 1st and 2nd Companies proved problematic. In the dark, most of the two companies lost direction, with the bulk of 1st Canterbury Company ending up in the wrong sector and exposed to heavy machine gun fire and eventually a German counter-attack. Percy's 2nd Company had combined with the Durham Light Infantry of the British Army to capture the heavily defended German position at La Vacquerie capturing many prisoners. They pushed on to the Gouzeaucourt - Cambrai Road where they came under heavy machine gun fire and had to withdraw to trenches south of La Vacquerie. Percy was killed on this day - his body was found just on the outskirts, south east La Vacquerie - most likely during the heavy fighting to storm the German trenches in front of La Vacquerie.

Percy was buried in the Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery in the Village of Villers-Plouich, not far from where he was killed. His grave is in plot 6, row B, grave 8, stone 750. He had earned the British War medal and Victory medal and by the time these were sent to his wife Josephine in May 1923 she had remarried to Thomas William Garth and was living in Wellington (they had in fact married in November 1919). When the Wharenui School Memorial Gates were completed, Percy's son Colin was given the honour of unveiling them on 23 April 1923.


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Percival (Percy) John Sherbrook Lowe

First Names:Percival John Sherbrook
Last Name:Lowe
Place of Birth:Christchurch
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Percival (Percy) John Sherbrook Lowe by Rachel H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License