I made a film about the Rowsell family connection to the Congreve family in Ceylon. Both were involved in tea planting in the late 19th century.
Vere Norman Rowsell (1887-1945) was born in Ceylon, the son of tea planter Norman Rowsell and his wife Florence Congreve. They were living at Abbotsleigh estate when he was born.
Vere was raised at first in the hills of Ceylon but was later sent to England to be educated at Wellington college, Berkshire. He is recorded as living there in 1901 at the age of 13. After school he joined the Coldstream Guards and fought in WWI as a lieutenant. Vere was wounded at Somme in 1916 then sent to NT Polesden Lacey in Surrey probably after treatment at Edward VII Hospital for Officers.He was wounded again at Paschendael 1917 and again in Cambrai. Vere was married in Somerset in 1917 and then returned to the front to fight yet again!
He was reported missing on 13th April 1918, just a few months after the wedding and was presumed dead. He was cited for a Victoria Cross but was discovered in a German hospital on 24th December 1918 and was awarded with a Military Cross instead.
Vere remained in the military until 1920 and was married in Somerset in 1917. His son Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000) was born the same year that Norman Rowsell died. Vere and his family moved back to India in 1920, the year after his father’s death, and probably met up with his remaining family there (mainly Congreves). He received his MC that year at an address listed in Bulsar (Valsad). He seems to have gone back to England though as a passenger document in 1934 lists his home address in Cheltenham.
In 1935 Vere returned to India again, where he and his wife, Dorothy Isobel Edwards (1890-1971), remained until his death in 1945, after which she returned to England. Vere had been working in the State of Rajasthan as a Railway Traffic Superintendent on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway when he died of a cerebral haemorrhage caused by an injury he had sustained during the war. Six months before he died, as part of The King’s Birthday Honours celebrating the official birthday of King George VI, Vere was awarded with an OBE, civil division, for his work on the Indian railways. At the time of Vere’s death, his son Colin had just finished fighting in WWII, and like Vere, tragically missed the last chance to see his father and share his experiences of battle.
I recently learned that in 1883 Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) was the Honorary secretary and treasurer of the Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club (which was actually also a rugby club) now known as the Darrawella Club. I managed to find some more photos of him and his younger brother Eustace Farquhar Rowsell (1867–1911) on the History of Ceylon Tea site. There is a whole album of photos from the Darrawella Club including an image of Nicholas II Emperor of Russia visiting the Club in 1881.
The photos of the Rowsell bros. are all of the Up-Country rugby team, which they both played for. Eustace had played for Blackheath 1st XV in England in 1891 (see first image) and was playing for the Up Country 11 in 1894, with his big brother Norman as Captain (see 2nd image)
The following year, it seems Norman was no longer on the squad. Maybe he wasn’t as good as his little brother? In any case, they were both playing in the 1897 Dickoya vs Maskeliya & Bogawantalawa game. For some reason Eustace’s nickname is written this year as “Family” Rowsell.
That’s the last year they are photographed together, but Norman reappears in 1902 as the referee for the Up-Country vs Colombo game.
There is also this photo below of the Darawella club from way back in 1885, a time when Norman was definitely there and one of the guys looks like him.