Captain Wynne Owen

38th Dogras attached 1st Bn, 39th Garhwal Rifles, Garhwal Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division, I.E.F.

Malvern Commemoration: Holy Trinity North Malvern,

Burial/Commemoration: Laventie Military Cemetery

Nature of Death: Killed in action at Neuve Chapelle 10/3/1915

Age: 30

Next of Kin: Son of Charles and Elizabeth Owen; adopted son of Rev H Maynard Smith, Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Malvern

Education: Bromsgrove School

Previous Employment: Indian Army Officer

Captain Wynne Owen, portrait published in the Graphic 10/4/1915

Early Years

Wynne Owen was born at Brixton on 3rd January 1885, the son of Charles Owen, a gentleman stockbroker and his wife Elizabeth.   The following year Charles was granted the Freedom of the City of London in the Company of Loriners.  In 1891 the family were living at 11 Brewster Gardens, Hammersmith.  

A family tragedy

Sadly Charles died in 1895, and Rev H Maynard Smith, a family friend, provided for Wynne.  In 1901, Elizabeth, was living at 9 Keith Grove, Hammersmith with her older children.  She died in May 1910 and was buried at Norwood Cemetery – Rev Maynard Smith from Holy Trinity conducted the service.

Wynne attended Bromsgrove School, as a boarder in Gordon House.  He was later a Gentleman Cadet at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Indian Army

Owen was commissioned into to Indian Unattached List on 18th January 1905.  He spent his probationary year with a British Regiment in India and joined the 38th Dogras on 16th March 1906. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 18th April 1907 and to Captain on 18th January 1914.

First World War

The 38th Dogras were stationed at Malakand on the North West Frontier at the outbreak of war. The Regiment remained in India until 1917 but sent detachments to the 41st Dogras in Mesopotamia. Captain Owen deployed to France with a second detachment joining the 1st Battalion 39th Garhwal Rifles at Lacouture, Vieille Chappelle on 15th February 1915.  

Garhwal Rifles Neuve Chapelle in August 1915 published in the Graphic

Garhwal Rifles Neuve Chapelle in August 1915 published in the Graphic

Battle of Neuve Chapelle

The 1st 39th Garhwal Rifles were detailed to take part in their Brigade attack on German trenches east of the Estaires – La Bassee Road at 8.05am on 10th March 1915.  Captain Owen was second in command of No 2 Company – one of the front line attacking companies.  Keeping in touch with the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment on their right, they were attack the German trenches to their front.

The Battalion War Diary recorded that:

“At 8.05am the assault commenced and No 2 Company under Captains Clarke and Owen immediately bore too much to the right and thus caused Captain Kenny’s No 4 Company also to bear too much to the right the consequence being that a large portion of the German front line trench… was not attacked, the Germans still holding it in force.” 

Artillery fire had failed to clear wire in front of the positions yet “…the two leading companies after severe fighting and clearing obstacles in face of a very heavy fire to capture a portion of the trench some 200 yards in length.”

Two platoons of the supporting companies deployed early and were engaged by enemy defenders, leaving the Battalion commander (CO) in the unenviable position of not having sufficient troops to mount a successful attack on the portion of frontline trench still strongly held by the enemy.  The Adjutant was sent forward to issue orders that no further assault was to be made until reinforcements had arrived.

The CO stated in his account that “I was not able to find out for some time as to what had happened to all the British officers of the attacking companies, but after some delay I ascertained that they had all been killed and that the survivors of the attacking companies were holding the captured trench under the command of Garhwali officers.  

All this happened in the first forty minutes of the attack.  Reinforcements arrived later in the form of two companies of the 3rd London Regiment (Territorials).  The CO received a lacerated leg wound at 10am, but remained in command for a further 12 hours.  An evening attack captured the offending portion of trench, and allowed the bodies of the British officers to be recovered.

Prior to being relieved of command, the CO paid tribute to his men who took part in the assault:

The attack of my two leading Companies together with the supporting platoons… was I consider carried out with the greatest dash and bravery – the officers and men being fired on from two sides as well as their front.  

Burial at Lestrem

The Battalion War Diary recorded that on 14th March 1915, at 5pm:

“The Commanding Officer and Officers together with a party of men from the 2nd 39th Garhwal Rifles to be present at the burial of Major Martin, Capt W G N Kenny, and Capt Wynne Owen… The procession started from the cross roads at L’Epinette marching thence through Lestrem to the Cemetery, where the bodies were laid to rest.  Captain Dixon, the Chaplain of Meerut Division officiated.”

After the war these graves were brought into Laventie Military Cemetery, which is where Captain Owen lies today.

The grave of Captain Wynne Owen, 38th Dogras attached 1st/39th Garhwal Rifles at Laventie Military Cemetery, 2023

The grave of Captain Wynne Owen, 38th Dogras attached 1st/39th Garhwal Rifles at Laventie Military Cemetery, 2023

Tributes to the Garhwalis

Lt-General James Wilcocks, Commanding the Indian Army Corps transmitted the a special order of the day, to the officers and men of the Garhwali Brigade:

“Please convey to all ranks of your gallant Brigade my hearty thanks and congratulations on their splendid work at Neuve Chapelle.  I am indeed fortunate and proud to have such fine soldiers in my command.  I feel sure, notwithstanding their great effort. they are prepared for still greater in the immediate future.”

Their Brigade Commander, Brigadier-General G G Blackader added:

“In more than endorsing the above, the Brigadier-General wishes to congratulate every unit in the Brigade on the splendid example they have shown of gallantry, dash, endurance, and discipline in the operations of the last few days.  He feels sure that every member of the Brigade is not only proud of the success, they have achieved, but also of having added fresh honour to the past traditions of their Units.”

Malvern News

In March 1915, the Malvern News reported that:

“Captain Wynne Owen late 38th Dogras now attached to the 39th Garhwal Rifles has been killed in action. He entered the Indian Army in 1905 and obtained his company in 1914. He was the adopted son of Revd H Maynard Smith, Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Malvern and was 30 years of age.”


Wynne Owen is also commemorated on a memorial plaque for 37th, 38th and 41st Dogras in All Saints Royal Garrison Church, Aldershot, Hampshire


War Diary 1/39th Garhwal Rifles
Malvern News 20/3/15
The Graphic 5/4/1915
Birmingham Daily Gazette 28/7/1915

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