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William Douglas Lowe (1879-1922)

Durham University Lecturer who commanded 18th DLI awarded DSO

William Douglas Lowe, the son of the Reverend Canon Charles and Anne Lowe, was born in Kearsley Moor, Bolton, Lancashire on 27 July 1879. He had two brothers and three sisters and while attending Shrewsbury School obtained a scholarship to study classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After spending some time in Germany and briefly teaching at Radley School, he became Junior Censor and a Classical Tutor at University College, Durham, where he was one of the first members of the Officers’ Training Corps. In July 1908 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on the unattached list. From 1909 to 1911 he was appointed provisional captain before being confirmed in the rank on 18 January 1911. He lectured on education and classics and in 1913 became Senior Censor and Bursar of University College.

On 6 October 1914 he was appointed temporary captain in the 18th (The Pals) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry shortly after it had been formed at Cocken Hall, Durham. On 22 December 1915 William landed at Port Said in Egypt with the 18th Battalion and remained there until March 1916, when the battalion was moved to Europe. In October he was appointed temporary major and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) at the end of the year. In November 1917 was transferred to the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) in command of the 16th Battalion and a month later was transferred to the East Lancashire Regiment as acting lieutenant-colonel of the 11th Battalion.

In April 1918 he returned to the 18th Durham Light Infantry and from then until 1919 served as acting and then temporary lieutenant-colonel, during which time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). On 28 August 1919 William relinquished his commission ‘on completion of service’, retaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel and returned to University College. In 1920 he wrote ‘ The War History of the 18th (S) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry’. He died on 22 May 1922 after being taken ill while attending chapel, dying within half an hour. The many papers and records which he collected are held in the Durham University Library.

The award of the MC was gazetted on 1 January 1917 but there is no record of the citation.

The award of the DSO was gazetted on 26 July 1918 and the citation reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was indefatigable under all conditions throughout heavy fighting. After the Brigadier and Brigade Major were casualties, and the brigade was without communication in the rear, he shouldered the whole responsibility until touch was regained”.

Durham University Library website, link to Lowe collection catalogue:

Art UK website, painted portrait of William Douglas Lowe:

Civil Parish: Durham College

Birth date: 27-Jul-1879

Death date: 24-May-1922

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: St Stephen’s Vicarage, Kearsley, Bolton, Lancashire (1881 census)
Pembroke College, Cambridge (Cambridge University Alumni, 1898)
Church Street, West Coker, Somerset (1901 census)
The Grange, Hinton St. George, Somerset (1911 census)

Education: Shrewsbury School
University College, Durham

Employment: University Lecturer (1911 census)

Family: Father: Reverend Canon Charles Lowe
Mother: Anne Lowe (nee Diggles)
Siblings: Charles Grafton Worsley, Frances Mary, Lucy Augusta, Henry St Albans, Dorothy Ann Shelmerdine Lowe

Military service:

18th (The Pals) Battalion Durham Light Infantry

Medal(s): Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Dispatches (4)
1915 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Italian Croce di Valore

Memorial(s): Lowe Memorial Library, University College, Durham

Gender: Male

Contributed by John Edwards