Oxenhall Gloucestershire

Beneath a tamarind tree...

St. Anne's Church in Oxenhall lies in a secluded and quiet spot. Its position high above the lanes which run past it, means that the views from on high are rather special. Over countryside and fields. Across the valley and up the other side.

Oxenhall is a tiny place just outside of Newent, down a back lane near the old canal now in part re-opened and where the railway used to run. The church lies adjacent to the vicar's school founded in 1842; now it is a community room.

Daffodils spring up in this part of the world as the weather warms out of winter. It is a place to wander and observe.

Andrew Brooks Knowles

It is a contradiction perhaps that at this most quintessential part of England, amongst the lambs and the daffodils, gazing across the rolling hills and tree lined lanes that there should be a memorial predominantly to a man lost to the Great War, not of the Western Front or Gallipoli, not of the Middle East or Eastern Europe or Italy - but of Africa. A man of Oxenhall who died not in a muddy trench or a barren ravine, but in jungle and bush extremes in what we know is Tanzania, in East Africa, on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

His name was Andrew Brooks Knowles.

Andrew was the son of Andrew and Catherine Knowles of Newent Court. Newent Court no longer exists. As its name suggests, it was in Newent on land that resides on what locals know as Newent Lake, but now has a functional housing estate upon it. The house has gone. But in the late 19th century, Andrew Knowles, one of the sons of the Knowles family who owned the largest coal-mining operation in Lancashire purchased Newent Court.

Andrew was born in Newent in 1885. His father died in late 1909 at Moreby Hall, Yorkshire. But the same year, Andrew himself was married in 1909 in Hanover Square, London to Margaret Mary Brooks-Close, a cousin.

He is listed by Wisden as one of many cricketers who died in the Great War - he played for the Dulwich College eleven between 1903-1904. He attended 1909 Lincoln College, Oxford in 1909 and went on to work for the Indian Civil Service in Nagpur in 1912, then in Bilaspur in 1914/1915. He was also a freemason.

His last date in India appears to be in 1915, which coincides with a mention in the London Gazette with a commission in the cavalry on the 30th April 1915. It must have been at this point, he left India for Africa joining the Indian Army Reserve of Officers attached to the 17th Indian Cavalry.

The 17th Indian Cavalry remained in India for most of the war, apart from a small group which went to East Africa, which clearly at some point included Andrew Brooks Knowles. As part of the British East African Expeditionary Force, they were being asked to protect the area south of Nairobi in Kenya, from a possible invasion from German East Africa.

They ranged in difficult bush conditions both for man and horse. In an area near the Pangani river (Tanzania), the 17th Cavalry was used when on the 11th June 1916, they came across German officers and German East African troops destroying the trolley lines. The cavalry dismounted and engaged with fire. During the fire-fight, Lieutenant Andrew Brooks Knowles was shot in the neck whilst firing. It was considered by some, a little impetuous from an officer newly arrived.

In June 1917, a year after his death, a war calvary was dedicated in the churchyard at Oxenhall by the vicar of Highnam and Rural Dean, Canon Park. It was stated that the Knowles family had used to live at Newent Court but had moved to Taverham Hall outside Norwich in Norfolk.

The calvary which now stands is that one commemorated in June 1917 for a son who never came home from war; and was lost so far from them.

On the memorial it states:

To the glory of God
and in memory of Andrew Brooks Knowles
This cross is erected by his mother
He fell in action in the great European War
June 11 1916
aged 31
Sans peur and sans reproche RIP

Clearly, it was decided to add the local war dead to this calvary to act as the Oxenhall war memorial. So it also states:

Also in loving memory of Frederick H. Bayliss William H. Cox Arthur J. Little John Loade Arthur E. Merrick Thomas J. Merrick Alick M. Williams

Andrew Brooks Knowles was buried at the time in a solitary grave in Luchomo. Commonwealth War Graves records his war service on a grave at Tanga in Tanzania, on a Portland stone it says:

Buried at the time in Luchomo Military Grave but whose grave is now lost
Their glory shall not be blotted out

A record from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that in 1923 a metal cross was put in place on Lieutenant Knowles' grave. That he was buried in a grave under a tamarind tree near Pangani, about 400 yards from the camp opposite the south end of the island in Pangani River. But that in 1923, his exhumation was refused.

Unlike so many others who were dug up and re-buried in places more central, Lieutenant Andrew Brooks Knowles was left there. In 1960/1961, a memorial stone was placed at Tanga European Cemetery by the CWGC.

He left a wife and family to grieve his loss.

These are the men who never returned from the Great War whose memorials lie at Oxenhall in Gloucestershire:

Lieutenant Andrew Brooks Knowles

DoB 1885 Newent, Gloucestershire DoD 11th June 1916 Luchomo age 31

Indian Army Reserve of Officers attached 17th Indian Cavalry

Buried: Luchomo Military Grave

Commemorated: Tanga European Cemetery, Tanzania