William Cecil Rowell was born on 29th November 1892 in Wolborough, Newton Abbot, Devon. He was the youngest of three children to architectural surveyor Spencer Rowell and his wife, Annie.
The 1911 census recorded that William had left the family home to study to be a civil servant, and was boarding with a family in Fulham, London. His studies complete, he was driven by a need to serve his country and, on 22nd January 1913, aged just 20 years old, he enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
Full details of his service are not available, but it is clear that he was committed to his purpose. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant soon after enlisting, rose to full Lieutenant in November 1914, and Captain a year later. It’s not possible to pinpoint where he served, he was wounded twice and, after his second recovery, he made a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps (later moving to the new Royal Air Force when it was founded in 1918).
Captain Rowell was based at Bekesbourne Airfield in Kent. He qualified as a pilot with 50 Squadron in October 1918, but was injured when, on the 12th November, his Sopwith Camel collided with the hanger. William was admitted to the Military Hospital in nearby Canterbury, but the injuries to his leg proved too severe for it to be saved, and he underwent an amputation in January 1919.
Tragically, while the initial prognosis was good, within a few weeks sepsis set in; Captain Rowell passed away on 22nd May 1919, aged just 26 years old.
William Cecil Rowell’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Wolborough.