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Thomas Walker Fowler (1888-1942)

Citation

“Thomas Walker Fowler (1888-1942),” Wyndham History, accessed September 26, 2020, http://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1705.
View Record Detail
Title

Thomas Walker Fowler (1888-1942)

Subject

Fowler, Thomas Walker

Publisher

Wyndham City Libraries

Date

1916

Contributor

Bill Strong
Ian Cropper

Format

text

Language

eng

Type

Text

Biographical Text

No. 27461, Gunner Thomas Walker Fowler (Jnr)
Thomas Walker Fowler (Junior) was born on 31 December 1888 to Thomas Walter Fowler (Snr) and Sarah Edith Warnock, at Camberwell, Victoria.
His siblings were:

  • Sydney Edith Fowler - born 4 March 1885, Richmond and
  • Madge Fowler - born 17 March 1891
He also had two brothers:
  • James Barrington Fowler - born 23 September 1887, Hawthorn
  • John Leslie Fowler - born 26 May 1895
During Thomas' childhood, his father was an electrical engineer and worked for various Shire Councils throughout Victoria.  By the time war came along, his parents had moved to Hobart, Tasmania where his father, Thomas Walker Fowler Snr., was a senior engineer with the Public Works Department in Hobart.

After completing school Thomas attended the Dookie Agricultural College, and acquired the skills he used in later life.  Between graduating and enlisting in the A.I.F., he worked on various grading works in the Werribee district.  It was reported that he was so impressed with the possibilities of land under irrigation that he took up a block of 90 acres.

After he enlisted in 1916, Thomas' brother took up an 80 acre block at Werribee, and managed both while his brother was away at the war.

War Service
Thomas applied to enlist in the A.I.F. on 3 March 1916, and nominated his postal address as Werribee, Victoria.  He was 27 years old and working as a farmer in Werribee.  He enlisted in the A.I.F. at Melbourne on 4 March 1916 as a Gunner, and was sent to Maribyrnong Depot for training.  After completing his training on 20 June 1916, he was appointed as a Gunner with the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, 19th Reinforcements.

Between 24 and 29 July 1916, he was at the Ascot Vale Isolation Camp and then returned to Maribyrnong. On 4 August 1916, he joined the 1st D.A.E. 19th Reinforcements, and on 1 October 1916 he was transferred to the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, 20th Reinforcements.

Thomas embarked from Melbourne on 20 October 1916 per A30 Borda, with the 2 F.A.B. (Field Artillery Brigade) – 17 to 24 Reinforcements.  After two months, they disembarked at Plymouth, England, on 9 January 1917, and marched in to the No 3 Camp, Pk. House.

Between 22 January and 17 February 1917, Thomas was admitted to the Military Hospital at Devonport, but the nature of his illness was not recorded.  He was discharged to No 1 C/B at Perham Downs, Salisbury, on 23 January 1917, and on 28 January 1917 he marched in to the R.B.A.A. at Larkhill.

Gunner Fowler was moved several times in England, before going to the front in France.  On 30 May 1917 he was transferred to the 36 H.A.G. Stowlangtoft, from R.B.A.A. (2nd F.A.B.)
On 1 June 1917 he was transferred from the 2nd F.A.B. to the 36th H.A.G.  On 24 June 1917 he was transferred to the 338 Siege Battery.  On 12 July he was moved to the 338 Siege Battery at Stowlangtoft, and immediately embarked for France from Folkston.

On 21 July 1917, he was taken on strength with the 55th Siege Battery at Neerstraat in Belgium.  A short time later, on 3 August 1917, he was admitted to hospital, as suffering from deafness. He was treated by the 53rd Casualty Clearing Station. On 5 August 1917, he was admitted to the 10th General Hospital for treatment of his deafness. He was then discharged to No 4 Infantry Base Depot on 9 August 1917, and transferred to Harfleve. On 21 August 1917 he marched in to the Australian General Base Depot at Rouelles and after treatment, departed for the 54th Siege Battery on 25 August 1917.  

After recovering, he was taken on strength with the 54th Siege Battery (on 28 August 1917), from the 338th (Australian) Siege Battery.

On 26 September 1917 he was again wounded in action, and didn’t return to his unit until 15 October 1917.  He suffered a gunshot wound to his right arm and was treated by the No 2 Casualty Clearing Station and the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance. He was then admitted to 14 General Hospital at Boulogne, and declared as "fit" on 2 October 1917.

In November and December 1917, the 54th Siege Battery with their 8inch Howitzers were stationed in the Ypres and at Gordon Roads areas.

Gunner Fowler was detached to the 3rd Ordnance Workshops between 31 January 1918 and 3 February 1918, before returning to his unit at Grand Sec Bois.  In March 1918 the 54 Siege Artillery Battery was assigned to the Australian Corps Heavy Artillery, and resumed its title as the 1st Siege Artillery Battery.

During action around Doulieu on 21 June 1918, Thomas became sick and was admitted to 88th Field Ambulance, and No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station. He was admitted No 20 General Hospital at Commiers France on 23 June 1918, and later, No.6 Convalescent Depot at Etaples in France.  He was discharged to the M.B. Base Depot at Havre in France on 5 July 1918.

On 22 July 1918 he was classified as ‘B2’.  In need of further treatment, he was invalided to No 2 Commonwealth Depot in England, and arrived there on 27 August 1918.  After treatment, he left the Perm. Cadre, No 2 Commonwealth Depot on 10 October 1918, and returned to the 36th A.H.A.B. at No 2 Com Depot.

Gunner Fowler returned to Australia, and embarked in England per S.S. Somali on 10 December 1918.  He disembarked on 8 February 1919, and was discharged on 10 March 1919.

He was presented with a gold medal from the Werribee Shire Council at a reception held on 16 April 1919.

Post War
At the conclusion of the war, Mr T.W. Fowler was appointed Irrigation Agricultural Instructor at Weymouth, and launched the first agricultural classes established by the A.I.F. Education Services in England.

After he returned to Werribee, Thomas and his brother James increased their holdings to 270 acres, and continued to develop methods of increasing production.  They then decided to convert their properties into a practical institution, similar to the State Agricultural College.

In 1919, Thomas married Mary Fraser Bartholomew at Box Hill.  The Electoral Roll tells us that he was still a farmer in Werribee up until the late 1930s.

In September 1921, Mr T.W. Fowler was appointed as President of the Werribee Irrigation Settlers Association. He was also the President of the Duncan’s-road Settlers’ Association.

Sometime after his discharge in 1923, his address was nominated as the Duncans Road Post Office, Werribee.
A report in The Werribee Shire Banner, 25 August 1921, p.4 stated that Mr T.W. Fowler and Mr J.B. Fowler were operating on a very extensive scale, and producing the heaviest crops of fodder.  It further stated that Mr T.W. Fowler held a degree from the Dookie Agricultural College, and specialised in irrigation.  He had first worked on the Tatura Farm, instructing farmers there on methods of growing lucerne.  He was later placed in charge of the Nannella district of Rochester as a grading expert.  After grading lands in that district he became a grading contractor and undertook the grading and seeding of approximately three-quarters of the land under lucerne at Werribee.

His brother, Mr J.B. Fowler served a mechanic’s apprenticeship at the Newport Workshops, and later was employed as a draughtsman in the Victorian Railway.

The Werribee Shire Banner, 8 October 1931, p.6 reported the beginning of the cheese making plant of Mr T.W. Fowler, at Werribee South.  About 480 gallons of milk being made into cheese. This quantity was expected to increase.

Thomas Walker Fowler Jnr's mother died at her home at Fernhill, Fitzwilliam Street, Kew in March 1932. The Werribee Shire Banner, 31 March 1932, p.2

Mr T.W. Fowler was associated with the first Italian migrant farmers, who came to Werribee South. The Werribee Shire  Banner, 8 February 1934, p.2, reported the first death in Werribee of an Italian farmer. He was Ancelico Raffaele, and he was leasing farm land from Mr Fowler, at the time of his death. Mr T.W. Fowler later fought for the rights of interred Italian farmers during WWII.
 
In February 1937, the Fowler brothers sold their large dairy herd on Sparrowvale Farm at Geelong.  Their lease had expired, and they had ceased to supply the Melbourne market with milk. The Werribee Shire Banner, 4 February 1937, p.2

Construction of buildings using concrete was becoming an interest of Mr T.W. Fowler.  The Werribee Shire Banner, 8 December 1938, p.2 reported that "a modern and commodious milking shed and dairy had been constructed entirely in concrete for Mr J. Graham of Duncans Road, Werribee South". (This building was included in the Heritage of Wyndham Study by Context, dated 1997.) It is also included in the City of Wyndham C86 Heritage Overlay of 2009 as HO50. The shed plans had been drawn up by the local Dairy Supervisor, Mr H. Ladd.

The Werribee Shire Banner, 11 May 1939, p.3 announced that the Housing Commission had conducted a competition for the design of homes to be built in a new 55-acre settlement at Fishermen’s Bend, to be called Garden City. The first, second and fourth prize were for the construction of homes under the Fowler System of reinforced concrete, and had been submitted by Mr T.W. Fowler of Werribee.  His system consisted of precasting reinforced concrete walls in one piece, and placing them on concrete blocks, set in concrete footings.  A successful prototype house had been built for Mr George Baker in Werribee South, ten years earlier.

In 1940, Mr T.W. Fowler wrote a letter to The Werribee Shire Banner, 17 October 1940, p.2  defending his support of an Italian neighbour, contrary to the stance taken by the R.S.S.I.L.A., the Military Authorities, and Councillor Bugg, concerning the taking into permanent custody of Italian residents, after the declaration of war against Italy.  He stated that he had served his country and believed that its system of justice and fair play was worth fighting for. He took exception to the attitude of the R.S.S.I.L.A., that they had evidence to damn all Italians in this country.  He cited that many had fought and received wounds as our allies in WW1.  At least four men recently attacked were returned soldiers, and others attacked were fathers of men now serving. Others attacked were prominent in the war effort in the Werribee district.  He received letters of support and rebut for his stand.

In a follow up letter to The Werribee Banner, 7 November 1940, p.3, T.W. Fowler claimed that he was building 10 houses a month (at Laverton) for the State at a saving of £60 per house, which realised £600 per month for the war effort.

Thomas Walker Fowler died in 1942 and is buried in the Werribee Cemetery.  The Fowlers had five children.  His wife, Mary, passed away in 1973.

Medals & Entitlements:
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal 1914-19
Notes:
2nd Siege Artillery Battery was formed in Victoria during April 1915. The battery departed Melbourne on 17 July 1915 and served on the Western Front during WW1. The battery along with the 1st Siege Artillery Battery made up the 1st Siege Artillery Brigade. 2nd Siege Artillery Battery was renamed the 55th Siege Artillery Battery on 28 September 1915. The battery was equipped first with four BL 9.2 inch Howitzers and then 6 from July 1917. In March 1918 the battery was assigned to the Australian Corps Heavy Artillery and resumed its original title. – Wikipedia.

Name on Shire Oak Board – FOWLER T.W.
Name in Banner Roll of Honor – Fowler T.W. (from Werribee)

Glossary:
F.A.B. Field Artillery Battery
H.A.G. Heavy Artillery Group
H.A.S. Heavy Artillery Section

Bibliography

https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R2039097/
http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/
http://avoca.vicnet.net.au/~wfhg/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Siege_Artillery_Battery_(Australia)
http://trove.nla.gov.au

CD Pioneer Index of Victoria 1836 – 1888
CD Federation Index of Victoria 1889 - 1901

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