Remembering Private Howell, brave soldier and a gentleman

Published Friday, 4 September 2015

Relatives from as far away as Australia have gathered today to remember Private William Howell at the Bromley war memorial which now bears his name for the first time.

Private William Kitchener Howell died 72 years ago today whilst taking part in the allied invasion of Italy on active service with the SAS. Private Howell’s relatives discovered that his name was never inscribed onto Bromley’s war memorial in Martin’s Hill and approached the Council to ask that this act of remembrance could be collected.

“When we say ‘we shall remember them’, we really do, not just as a nation and as a borough but also as families and individuals. When we come together to remember the sacrifices of those fallen in just a couple of months’ time, we will remember William. He was a local man from a local family and it was a honour to meet his wider family today and salute the sacrifices he made for us all” said Councillor Alan Collins, Deputy Mayor of Bromley. 

Arthur Cook, Private Howell’s nephew said, “The family never recovered from the death of my uncle, William Kitchener Howell. The day is still etched in my mind. I am pleased that Bromley Council have added Uncle Bill’s name to the Bromley war memorial which was somehow omitted among the grief at the time. In this way, Uncle Bill’s smiling face and his memory lives on long after we have all faded.” 

William joined the Queen’s Royal West Kent Regiment and then subsequently volunteered for the Unit 1 SAS in May 1943 and had seen action, including taking part in the Battle of El Alamein. William was fatally injured on the second day of Operation Baytown, which was part of the Allied invasion of Italy and just four days later, on 8th September, Italy’s surrender was formally announced. Gavin Mortimer’s book, The SAS in World War II, describes how, a cluster of mortar bombs landed close to the Troop HQ, fatally injuring signaller Charlie Richards and William Howell. 

In a letter written by Sergeant-Major Graham Rose to William’s parents, John and Eve Howell, Sergeant-Major wrote, “Always smiling, always ready to help anyone at any time, he leaves a gap in the ranks that can never be filled.” Sergeant-Major Rose also wrote, how William was known with “his imitation of Maurice Chevalier songs the favourite being ‘Louise’.” 

Prior to the war, William, along with his brother, Henry, was a keen amateur boxer who belonged to the Downham Community Boxing Club. Henry, who later emigrated to Australia, is now 96 years old, was represented at the memorial event today by his son. 

The Downham Community Boxing Club, which was part of the Bromley and Downham Boys' Club is now the Bromley and Downham Youth Club and representatives of the Club were present to remember William, a former member of their club. Also present, were representatives of Bromley Town Friends of Parks group, with the memorial, within Martins Hill open space, one of Bromley town’s parks.


Notes to editors:

  • The Bromley War Memorial in Martins Hill, Church Road, Bromley, BR2 0EG is probably the most ornate of all memorials within the Borough. It was unveiled on Sunday 29th October 1922, by General Lord Horne, G.C.B., K.C.M.G. and dedicated by John Harmer D.D. the Bishop of Rochester. The design is in the form of an obelisk with three figures at the base with the symbols of 'Liberty', a torch; 'Victory', a laurel wreath; and 'Peace', the open hand of peace. It was designed by Sydney March, who designed several other local memorials. He was a member of a family of six brothers and one sister who were artists or sculptors and lived at 'Goddendene' at Locksbottom, Farnborough, Kent. The memorial records the names of 769 local men who died in the First World War. There were also 476 names recorded for both Armed Forces and Civilians killed during the Second World War. These are listed, unusually in strict alphabetical order without mention of rank, service or civilian. Now, with William Kitchener Howell’s name added, there are 477 names recorded.
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