In Memoriam: Lawrence Edmund Rowntree

Lawrence Edmund Rowntree of Scalby, Scarborough, was killed in action in Flanders on 25th November 1917, aged 22 years.

He was born at York in 1895 and was a grandson of Joseph Rowntree, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer and social reformer of York.  He attended Bootham School from 1907 to 1912.

Lawrence took part in many activities whilst at Bootham.  He was a member of the Junior Essay Society and gained mentions in Aquatics reports.  In the Conchology report of the Natural History Society report (“Bootham” magazine, February 1909):

“This subject has attracted no fewer than ten collectors during the year, and several of them have made really good collections. ………L. E. Rowntree’s collection contains 14 new species. Collectors have been very energetic over their work, diligently carrying shell-scoops on all excursions. Many places have been visited, amongst others Askham Bog, Castle Howard and the Foss.”

In the Archaeological Diaries report of the Natural History Society report (“Bootham”, March 1910):

“With two exceptions, there are no original photographs, and in most cases we should have liked to see more illustration, either in pen and ink sketches, or pencil drawings.

L. E. Rowntree’s mouldings are very effective. We think that all who take up archaeology ought to make a particular study of this branch of the subject, for mouldings are to a right understanding of the different periods what factors are to algebra—often the shortest and best clue to a difficult problem.We should like to encourage more of this in the diaries for another reason. Many of us are not artistic, and cannot “make a picture,” but we can copy a moulding fairly accurately, and can draw a section of a pillar or string course, so as to make a valuable addition to our diary.”

In 1911, Lawrence was a curator of Astronomy and a librarian for the school Natural History Society.

By The 1910-11 season, Lawrence was playing football in the school second XI and had joined the committee of the Senior Essay Society.

“Bootham” of November 1911 reported that Lawrence, amongst others from Bootham, had gained the bronze life saving medal at an examination at the St George’s Baths.

By 1912, Lawrence had become a Reeve at Bootham, equivalent to a prefect.

Lawrence joined the school fire brigade.  “Bootham” magazine of November 1912 reported that in the school term of summer 1912:

“A fine display was given by the School Fire Brigade under the captaincy of L. E. Rowntree.”

Lawrence Rowntree left Bootham School in July 1912.  “Bootham” magazine tells us:

“L. E. ROWNTREE leaves from the Upper Senior after passing the Cambridge Previous Examination. He was at Bootham five years and a reeve during his last year. He played for the ist Boys’ XL at football and was on the Tennis Committee. He was an efficient secretary to the Senior Essay Society and a member of the Natural History Club Committee. In aquatics he was prominent and won the Silver Medal of the Royal Life Saving Society. For his last term he was an able and energetic captain of the Fire Brigade.”

After studying at Haverford Quaker College, Pennsylvania, near where father was buried, Lawrence became a medical student at King’s College, Cambridge in October 1913 but left in 1914 at the outbreak of the war to join the Friends Ambulance Unit.  He trained at Jordans, the Quaker Centre in Buckinghamshire, and on 31 October set off for France led by Philip Noel Baker (another Bootham Old Scholar).  Lawrence took his grandfather’s Daimler abroad with him, to his grandmother’s disapproval.  The December 1914 edition of “Bootham” has a report on the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit and Lawrence is listed under a section entitled “Dressers, Orderlies, Ambulance Drivers, Stretcherbearers, etc.”  While in France and Belgium he wrote a diary, entitled ‘A Nightmare’.  The original is in the library at Friends’ House in London, and a copy in the Borthwick Institute, York University.

The December 1914 edition of “Bootham” also reported that:

“LAWRENCE EDMUND ROWNTREE (1907-12) has passed the First M.B. Examination, University of Cambridge.”

In March 1916, “Bootham” reported that:

“The following are, or have been, working with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit :— Rowntree, L. E., Clerical Staff, York.”

During 1916, Lawrence left the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and enlisted in the Army in the Motor Machine Gun Corps, “C” Company of the newly-formed Heavy Section, later known as the Tank Corps.  He was posted to the Somme in France. All the tanks in the British Army were at Ancre in the first ever tank battle.  Lawrence was injured and while home recuperating decided to apply for a commission. He was accepted and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 26th Army Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.  It was at the Battle of Passchendaele, the 3rd Battle of Ypres, that he was killed in action, on 25th November 1917.

“Bootham” of December 1917 reported:


ROWNTREE.—On 25th November, 1917, killed in action in Flanders, Lawrence Edmund Rowntree (1907-12), of Low Hall, Scalby, Yorks, aged 22 years.”

“Bootham” of May 1918 published an “In Memoriam” piece for Lawrence as follows:

“L. E. ROWNTREE.  His friends will perhaps remember Lawrence Rowntree best when he was at home.  No form of outdoor life came amiss, and he entered with equal zest into any of the many recreations he liked.  Motor-cycling was one of his great hobbies, but whatever the accident or however untoward the incident he always kept on smiling. Indeed, it was his unfailing cheerfulness, a fund of good stories, and his constant thought for others that made him such an excellent companion. -He was a Reeve during his last year at school, and, besides winning a much-contested place on the 1st Football XI., he took a prominent post in the Essay, Debating, and N.H. Societies. Many will remember the time and care he lavished on a hydroplane which he built in the workshop, but which, alas!, would not float.

Some will know John Drinkwater’s lines in “The God of Quiet ” : ” And the hate Of blood for blood, and bone for bone, can find No habitation in the quiet mind. . . . ” Probably all Old Boys have this quiet mind. Lawrence Rowntree certainly had it in a large degree, and as his friends are realising how much a part of their lives he was they are also realising how irreparable is their loss.

Died 25th November 1917.  Fell in action in Flanders.”

Second Lieutenant Lawrence Edmund Rowntree is buried in the Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, near Ypres.  His headstone bears the inscription, Only son of JW Rowntree, Scalby.  “I believe in the life everlasting.”


In Memoriam: Frederic Garratt Taylor

On 25th September 1915 Frederic Garratt Taylor was killed by a shell in Flanders. He was a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit and was on duty with his ambulance car picking up wounded soldiers. He was 21 years old.

Photograph of FG Taylor in uniform

Frederic was a pupil at Bootham School in York between 1908 and 1912. He was known as a fast swimmer, who twice helped his bedroom to win the aquatics team race and gained the Bronze Medal of the Royal Lifesaving Society. He also won prizes in the workshop category of the school exhibition for making chessmen and a cycling tent.

FG Taylor

After leaving school he joined Morland & Impey Wholesale Stationers in Birmingham, before joining the Friends Ambulance Unit in 1914, going to Dunkirk on 4th December 1914.

FG Taylor Vehicle permit Pocket case belonging to FG Taylor

The Commandant wrote from Dunkirk on 27th September: “We have just returned from his graveside in the little cemetery here, a company of over a hundred members, nurses, and officers of the unit who went to pay a last tribute of honour and affection to a comrade whom every one of us loved, one of the brightest, most willing, and cheeriest members of the unit.” The French authorities awarded him the Croix de Guerre.

FG Taylor Croix de Guerre FG Taylor Letter from French Authorities

His friend Lawrence Rowntree wrote this in the school magazine in December 1915: “When I think of Eric Taylor I am always reminded of Peter Pan: he never grew up. In determination, in pluck, in self-reliance, he was a man, as we all knew him in France; in light-heartedness and cheery good spirits, in his readiness to enter into anything that savoured of mischief, and in his enthusiasm in taking up any new employment, amusement or hobby, he was always a boy, without a care in the world.”

First World War: Dunkirk Ambulance Unit Appeal

DEAR MR. EDITOR,—The response to an appeal for help from friends of the School for the Ambulance Unit at Dunkirk has been most generous. We have sent nearly 5,000 articles of clothing and blankets, etc., from Bootham, and £300 has come in cheques to be spent as necessities arise. May I take this opportunity of again thanking all those who so kindly and readily sent assistance urgently needed? With the rapid extension of hospital work the wants of the Ambulance continue to be great.

Yours sincerely, ELLEN H. ROWNTREE.

From ‘Bootham’ March 1915

A third update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit

Since November 16th there have been parties continuously at the sheds, and in all they have probably done about 200 dressings…

The work at the dressing station at Woesten has been continued, and the party there has varied in number from twelve to seventeen. Geoffrey W. Young was in command until November 18th, and since then Maurice Stansfield has had charge of the station,

The main part of the work continued to be the collection of wounded from various villages just behind the firing line, and the evacuation of cases too serious to be sent by train to hospitals in Furnes and Dunkirk. Probably altogether between 200 and 250 wounded have been brought back from the villages of Zuydschoot, Boesinghe, etc. ; and of these a considerable proportion would have been killed had they not been removed. On November 18th twenty-five were brought out of Boesinghe while the village was undergoing a heavy shell fire; on the second journey twenty-two shells fell while the cars were being loaded. On November 20th fifty more people, including some refugees, wounded civilians and nuns, were brought from the same village, which was again being fired on. The conduct of everyone concerned on both occasions was admirable.

About forty or fifty serious cases have been evacuated during the week to Furnes and Dunkirk. This work is a severe strain both on the cars and on the drivers, but is a most valuable part of the service that the unit is able to render, as it is undoubtedly the means of saving some men who otherwise would die. Some much larger and heavier cars than are yet at the disposal of the unit are really necessary for the purpose.

In addition to the above work, a certain amount of dressing has been done. On November 17th, after a heavy fight around Zuydschoot and Bixschoot, about 100 men were dressed, some of them for the first time since they were wounded. Altogether about 250 men have been dressed by members of the unit at Woesten during the last week. The personnel of the party at Woesten has been changed from time to time, so that in all thirty-five members of the unit have had some experience of conditions at the front.

But the work of the Woesten dressing station has been much hampered by the fact that the party there are only, so to speak, the guests of the French doctors in charge, and that they hold no official position. In consequence, they do not receive regular information as to where their services are required, and are compelled to find their own work. This involves much loss of time and energy, and means on some days that they are able to do little.

With the object of removing these disadvantages and of enabling us to start new stations of the same sort, we were anxious to make some formal arrangement for the authorisation of our activities by the French Government. This we have been fortunate enough to accomplish… The advantage of it is that, however many stations we may establish, or however wide a front we may be covering, they will all be in telephonic communication both with our new headquarters in Furnes and with each other. Our headquarters will be in direct touch with the French authorities, who will keep us informed every day as to the work which there is to do.

We have offered to the Mission Francaise at Furnes the services in the first instance of twenty-five men, including three doctors, and of nine cars. There is no doubt that in the near future we shall add to these numbers. There is also little doubt that, although in the first instance this work will be primarily that of collection, in a short time and as need appears we shall be able to institute dressing stations of our own.


PHILIP J. BAKER. November 21st, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914, Vol VII, p115.

See the second update from the Ambulance Unit for the account from one week earlier.

A second update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit

During the last week the work of the unit has been extended and developed in several directions. The work in the evacuating sheds at the station at Dunkirk has been continued without intermission. There has been no time, either at day or at night, during the week when there has not been a party of from seven to ten persons on duty in the sheds. As the members of the unit have become more expert in dressing, it has been possible to reduce the size of the parties. The normal number is now eight instead of twelve, and includes only one doctor instead of two. This eases the strain on all the members of the unit, and especially on the medical staff; while it is found that the smaller party is now quite competent to accomplish the work which previously occupied the whole of the larger party.

The work of the unit has developed in another direction during the week. We were offered by the Belgian Government the use of a military hospital at Ypres, and on Monday, the 9th, a party of twelve men and two doctors left Dunkirk with the intention of establishing there a collecting and dressing station. It was found, however, that the town was completely deserted and partially destroyed; the party spent the night in the hospital, but the bombardment continued at intervals, and by the next morning it was clear that there was no useful work to be done in the town itself. We therefore went north to Woesten, a village on the main road to Furnes, where there was a French evacuating station. The medecin chef of the station at once accepted the services of the party, and provided a large room for its accommodation. Since Tuesday the party has done a considerable amount of work, including the evacuation of hospitals at Poperinghe, Furnes, and Dunkirk of perhaps 40 or 50 very seriously wounded men, some of whom might have died if they had not been taken to hospital at once. They have also dressed over 100 cases, and have on three occasions collected wounded from points just behind the firing line. They were engaged in an endeavour to remove about 70 men from the village of Zuydschoot when the Germans began to shell it. They succeeded in removing about 40, but the remainder were killed by the collapse of the building in which they were lying. Some members of the party were for some time under fire while this operation was being carried out.

The medical staff express themselves as well pleased with the progress made by the members of the unit in the work of dressing.

During the week over 1,500 wounded men have been redressed at the station. In addition to the redressing, a very large number have been provided with shirts and other clothes from the stores of the unit, and in this way much suffering has been alleviated. It is clear that the unit can in this way utilise a large supply of clothes, and especially of shirts.

The whole work at the sheds has been placed on a more satisfactory basis by the construction of a dressing-room, which is allocated to the unit by the French authorities. It is therefore possible for us to keep there an adequate supply of stores and instruments, and thus to render more efficient the services of members of the unit. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the French authorities should have so far marked their appreciation of the work done by the unit. The party which arrived at Dunkirk yesterday has already begun to perform duties in the sheds. (The report proceeds to explain the removing of cases from the sheds to the hospitals already existing at Dunkirk.)

It is clear from the experience gained at this dressing station at Woesten that, if this side of the work is expanded, many more motor ambulances will be needed. An arrangement is at present being made with Captain Fournier, of the French Army, and with Dr. Hector Munro, who has been carrying out ambulance work at Furnes, as the result of which the unit will probably in due course establish two other similar stations on the line between Ypres and Dixmude. There is no doubt that this is the kind of assistance most urgently required, and if a definite arrangement with Captain Fournier is made, the energies of the unit can be most effectively used in this direction.


PHILIP J. BAKER. November 14th, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914, Volume VII, p113

See previous posts for an update about the Ambulance Unit , a postcard from Corder Catchpool and an appeal for help.

An update from the Anglo-Belgian Ambulance Unit in Dunkirk

On the passage from Dover to Dunkirk the vessel Invicta assisted in rescuing- the survivors of the sunken cruiser Hermes. The members of the party rendered aid by manning the boats, by dressing one or two wounds, by artificial respiration for the partially drowned, and by stretcher work.

On arrival at Dunkirk the larger number of the party proceeded almost at once to the station sheds, where the wounded are laid out on straw. The work there, which is described by Dr. Nockolds, has continued, with the exception of half of Monday night, ever since. It is mostly carried on by relay parties of six to twelve persons, who work day and night in shifts of four hours. As the stream of wounded is almost continuous, and as it requires at the least six in a shift, and usually more, to cope with the need, it is clear that for a party of less than fifty the work has been heavy. This has been accentuated by the necessity of utilising a considerable number of the party in other ways. But the work has been well done, and the British Consul here has volunteered the opinion that our presence and efforts have done much towards improving the general organisation, order, and cleanliness of the clearing sheds.

In addition to this, men have been detailed to supervise and organise the loading of hospital ships which transport the wounded from Dunkirk to Cherbourg and other centres. On Sunday 750 cases were loaded on the British hospital ship Rewa between 6.30 a.m. and 11 o’clock; on the same day 600 were loaded on the Plassy; on Tuesday and Wednesday the same boats were filled with a complement of 900 and 690 respectively; on the Monday 1,200 were put on a French boat. Fleet-Surgeon Datton, of the Rewa, expressed great satisfaction with the way the work was carried out. Six hundred blankets were obtained, after much effort, from the French authorities for the use of the wounded on the Rewa. Some transport work with the motor ambulances has been accomplished, but up to the present no great necessity for it has arisen, as at Dunkirk there is a large fleet of military ambulances, and the ambulance trains are usually shunted right down to the quays; the cars have, however, been in constant use for taking the surgeons and dressers rapidly to and from the clearing sheds and the hospital ships.

There is more work to be done in Dunkirk than can be handled by the present party; that is to say, more men can be immediately and profitably employed. Further, we have hopes of establishing in a day or two a dressing station in a Belgian military hospital at Ypres, which will require a complement of twelve men or thereabouts. And, lastly, as part of a larger scheme, we hope to establish a small clearing hospital where operations necessary to save the lives of some of those who come into the station sheds can be safely carried out. It is hoped that the French military authorities will allocate to us an apartment which is admirably suited to the purpose, and which is only a few hundred yards from our present headquarters at Malo-les-bains, just outside Dunkirk.

At the moment of writing the party is provided with eight motor ambulances, one motor-lorry, and a motor bicycle. If the present plans mature, more motor ambulances and more unconverted “scouting” cars will be urgently needed. The morale of the party is very good.

PHILIP J. BAKER. Dunkirk, November 6th, 1914.

From ‘Bootham’ magazine, December 1914. Philip J. Baker was at Bootham between 1903 and 1906. He was later known as Philip Noel-Baker, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1959.