October 22nd, 2016

Historian hunting for descendants of Leamington man lost at sea in First World War

Historian hunting for descendants of Leamington man lost at sea in First World War Historian hunting for descendants of Leamington man lost at sea in First World War
Updated: 8:30 am, Oct 13, 2015

A HISTORIAN is searching for the descendants of a Leamington man who was lost at sea during the First World War.

John Frederick Dowler served as a cook with the Mercantile Marines when the boat he was working on struck a mine and sank in the North Sea near the Humber Estuary in September 1914.

The boat – named the Fittonia – was on its way back to Grimsby at the time, and nearly all of the crew died, including 31-year-old John.

They have since been commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London.

But local Gulf War veteran and military historian David Eason, is calling for any of John’s descendants to come forward in a bid to uncover more of his past.

He hopes it could lead to the former cook being commemorated locally.

He believes John was one of five children who lived with their parents Walter and Kate Dowler in Church Street before moving to the Parade.

His father was a local cabinet maker and upholster who employed seven people at his workshop.

In 1911 some of the family moved to Liverpool before returning to Leamington and residing in Windsor Street.

John meanwhile joined the North Eastern Fishing Company where he started work on the steam trawler and later lost his life at sea.

And a soldier who fought in both world wars is set to have his name added to Warwick War Memorial.

Major James Edward Weeks Rance died in May 1940 when he was 42 years-old. He was a member of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and is believed to have died on the beaches of Dunkirk.

He was born in Coten End where he lived with parents George and Elizabeth. The family briefly moved to Essex before returning to Warwick and later to Lansdowne Circus in Leamington.

It is believed James was enlisted into the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1916 and in the Second World War he returned to the same battalion and became a Major.

He was killed while his battalion fought to keep open the main supply route to Dunkirk.

He was buried in the Wormhoudt Communal Cemetery in France and was awarded the Military Cross, Victory Medal and British War Medal for his military career.

Mr Eason is keen to hear from anyone with further information about Mr Dowler or Major Rance.

Email knights.templar88@yahoo.co.uk or call 07896201176.