Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Valentine Rowe

Valentine Rowe :

Valentine Rowe : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Valentine was born in mid 1881 in Manchester. He was baptised on the 30th June at St Michael's Parish Church. His father was called George and his mother was Maria. Valentine had a twin sister called Rachel Anne. They were baptised on the same day. They had 2 younger sisters; Alice and Ada. The family had lost 3 other children by 1911. We don't know their names.

George worked as a general labourer. When Valentine and Rachel were born the family lived at 23 Back Bilberry Street. By 1891 the family had moved to 47 Oldham Road in nearby Middleton. In 1901 they were at 37 Pearson Street, and this would be their home for at least the next 10 years.

In 1901 Valentine worked as a labourer for a railway company. Between July and September 1905 he married Margaret Ann McCarthy in Manchester. She was known as Maggie. They made their home together at 43 Iceland Street in Bradford, Manchester.

Valentine and Maggie had 2 sons; Valentine was born on the 17th June 1906 and George on the 11th March 1908. In 1911 Valentine senior still worked as a labourer, but now for a painter.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Valentine joined the Army in late December or early January 1915. He chose to enlist in the 6th City Battalion. The City Battalions were formed by men from Manchester so that they could serve together. The 6th became the 21st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and Valentine was assigned to XV Platoon in D Company. His service number was 19623.

The 21st Battalion trained in Manchester until January 1915 when it moved to Morecambe, Lancashire. That April Valentine moved to Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire, and in September he was sent to Larkhill in Wiltshire with the 21st Battalion. They sailed to France on the 10th November 1915.

We don't know much about Valentine's service in France, but we believe he stayed with the 21st Battalion throughout the war. The battalion took part in the Somme Offensive between the 1st July and November 1916. They then fought at the Battle of Arras in April 1917 and the Passchendaele Offensive around Ypres in Belgium during the autumn of that year.

Valentine's war changed in November 1917. The 21st Battalion was one of a number of British units sent to Italy to help the Italian Army in its fight against Austria-Hungary. Valentine served on the River Piave and the Asiago Plateau until September 1918. This was a much quieter time for the battalion.

In France the Allies had begun an offensive against the Germans on the 8th August. It was very successful and the Allies began advancing rapidly. Several British units were returned to France to take part in what would become known as the Hundred Days Offensive; the 21st Battalion was one of them. They arrived in France in mid-September and first entered combat early the next month.

The British continued to advance until the end of the war on the 11th November 1918. The Army then began to demobilise hundreds of thousands of men, and return them to their civilian lives. This process took time.

On the 19th January 1919 Valentine wrote a letter home to his sons. We don't know where he was or which unit he was a part of at this time. They had sent him some cigarettes with their last letter, which were 'most welcome...We can't buy any more cigs everything is going worse as regards a lot of things'.

Now that the war was over, Valentine, like most soldiers, just wanted to go home. 'It seems there are fellows going home with four months active service just because they have got their papers in'. Valentine, on the other hand, believed 'I may be home with you before Easter if everything goes on alright'.

We don't know when Valentine left the Army and returned home, but he did not get to spend long with his family. He died before the end of March 1919, aged 37. We know he died from disease, but nothing else.

Valentine junior named one of his children after himself and his father. Valentine's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in June 1999.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council