Trooper George Fowler

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10th Nelson Mounted Rifles

From the pages of "The Fallen" by Don Mackay.

George Fowler is the only soldier from the Riversdale ­Waikaia district to loose his life in the Sinai-Palestine campaign. George, the younger brother of David Fowler, was born at Waikaka Valley in April 1896. When the family purchased land at Wendon, George attended Wendon School. He finished his education at Mimihau School where the Fowlers also had a large farm. He left school and became a ploughman in the Wyndham region working for a Mr. S. Bews of Mokoreta.
As soon as he reached the required age and physical condition, he enlisted for service in September 1917. George’s ability with animals must have helped convince the Attesting Officer in Gore of his suitability as he overlooked his comparatively small frame.

58345 Trooper George Fowler
Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment.
Died 16th October 1918.

George went into camp at Featherston in October 1917 and sailed with the 36th Reinforcements in February 1918 on the passenger liner Ormonde from Wellington. This long-serving ship also transported troops overseas during the next war and landed the first New Zealand troops at Pusan in Korea in 1950. George landed at Suez and moved to NZMR Brigade training camp at Moascar. His first spell in hospital was at Abbassia in Cairo with an infected hand. Moving into the Holy Land, he was attached to 10th (Nelson) Squadron Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment and was posted to the field on 11 May.

The CMRs had just returned from the other side of the Jordan River after a series of exhaustive but unsuccessful raids on Amman and Es Salt. George joined up with his squadron as they passed through Jerusalem and Bethlehem to camp near the famed King Solomon’s pools on the Judean plateau. This area in the summer of 1918 was a land of pestilence of biblical proportions; a “humid dust-laden oven, menaced by virulent malaria.” By the end of June, George was back in Egypt at the Aotea convalescent home in Cairo recovering from malaria. In August he was back with his squadron in the field at Talaat ed Dumm at Judea, which was fortunately out of the pestilent Jordan Valley. Two weeks later, George was transferred to Brigade Transport in charge of camels delivering life essentials such as water, horse feed and ammunition. George had another bout of malaria on 7th October and was admitted to the 34th Casualty Clearing Station at Jerusalem. He initially rallied, but on the same day he was declared dangerously ill, he died. On 17th October he was buried by English chaplain F. M. Hogbin in the British Military Cemetery at Mount Scopus. Later, this cemetery was concentrated to make the Jerusalem War Cemetery which is at the north end of the famous Mount of Olives and to the west of Mount Scopus (grave reference R. 109). This gutsy young soldier lost his life in the harsh but romantic land of the Bible at age 22. He stood just 5’ 4”on enlistment, and had hazel eyes and dark brown hair. The Sinai-Palestine campaign, despite the grandeur of its setting and dash of the horsemen, has sadly slipped from New Zealand consciousness to where it is all but forgotten.

George Fowler is listed on the Wendon memorial.

Distinctive "High Tail" hat badge
of the 36th Reinforcements.

This page is taken from Don Mackay's recently published book "The Fallen" which was released late 2007.
Don is a fifth-generation Southlander who lives near Riversdale. A history graduate from the University of Otago, his PhD examined the political aftermath of the Gallipoli Campaign. He has visited the Gallipoli landing site a number of times and was recently a guest speaker at the CWGC in London.
"The Fallen" was written and published for the Riversdale-Waikaia Returned and Services Association, Gore, New Zealand and funded by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand.
Written by Don as a tribute to the local men of Riversdale and district who died during the wars of the twentieth century, this book is more than that, it reflects the tragic events experienced by each and every small town across the whole nation who lost their young men to war. This is not a book on tactics, map references or Generals. These pages are individual cameos on the life of good men, and the greater communities that still miss them.

Don Mackay and Keith Scott are authors who have recently written about soldiers from Southland and Otago. Listen to Don's interview: RADIO NEW ZEALAND AUDIO LINK HERE

Listen to ANZAC Day broadcasts. Visit: RADIO NEW ZEALAND ANZAC Day site