Sergeant (later Second Lieutenant) Rupert Hallowes, ca. 1914. (Credits: NAM. 1993-04-140-2)

Port Talbot Soldier’s First World War Heroism Revealed

Details of the military career of a Glamorgan soldier, Second Lieutenant Rupert Hallowes – who was awarded the Victoria Cross and Military Cross for his actions during the First World War – are to be added to the National Army Museum’s website 100 years after his tragic death on the battlefield in Belgium.

This month, Hallowes’ heroic story is being published on the National Army Museum’s commemorative online portal, First World War in Focus as part of the Soldiers’ Stories series. Hallowes’ story joins the ranks of other brave and steadfast soldiers whose involvement during the First World War deserves to be remembered.

Hallowes was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously on 16 November 1915, nearly two months after his brave actions at Hooge in Belgium that cost him his life. On 30 September 1915, after days of exhausting and fruitless fighting, Hallowes was struck with fatal shrapnel wounds to the head and leg, but it was his actions both before and after that earned him his award.

On 25 September 1915, the Allies launched a joint attack on the Western Front. The French focused on Champagne and Artois, while the British fought at Loos. At the same time, Hallowes’ regiment, the 4th Battalion The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), attacked near Hooge, with the intention of diverting enemy attention away from the Loos offensive and of recovering ground lost during previous skirmishes.

The operation failed, as soldiers found themselves held up by German defences, making progress slower, more dangerous and terrifying for British troops. The attack soon developed into a five-day stalemate, involving Hallowes’ regiment.

Sergeant (later Second Lieutenant) Rupert Hallowes, ca. 1914. (Credits: NAM. 1993-04-140-2)
Sergeant (later Second Lieutenant) Rupert Hallowes, ca. 1914. (Credits: NAM. 1993-04-140-2)

At the time The London Gazette of 16 November 1915 reported that Hallowes was fearless throughout, taking risks to provide intelligence on German positions, ensuring that there was always a fresh supply of bombs and ‘on more than one occasion he climbed up the parapet, utterly regardless of danger, in order to put fresh heart into his men’.

Motivating his troops until the end, even after he was mortally wounded, Hallowes ‘continued to cheer those around him and to inspire them with fresh courage’. It was this gallantry in the face of mortal danger that made him a posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, which was presented to his mother and brother by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29 November 1916.

Born in Redhill, Surrey, in 1881 to Doctor Frederick Blackwood and Mary Ann Taylor Hallowes, Rupert Price Hallowes had a short career in the City of London before enlisting with the 20th Middlesex (Artists) Volunteer Rifle Corps, later renamed the 28th (County of London) Battalion The London Regiment (Artists Rifles), when he was just 19 years old.

After a four-year hiatus between 1910 and 1914, when Hallowes worked as assistant manager of the Masel Tinplate Works in Port Talbot with his brother William, where he is now commemorated by a memorial window at St Theodore’s Church and dedication on the gates of Talbot Memorial Park, Hallowes swiftly worked his way up the ranks to sergeant.

However, two months after his arrival in France, Hallowes reverted to the rank of private at his own request – an unusual step. At the time, the Army was selecting suitable candidates from the Artists Rifles to replace officer losses in other units, which, as a sergeant, Hallowes would have been excluded from.

Hallowes was no stranger to gallantry at the time of his death. In July, shortly after his commission in the Middlesex, he was awarded the Military Cross for outstanding actions during battle, foreshadowing his death just three months later.

According to The London Gazette of 6 September 1915, Hallowes was awarded the medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry’, having ‘exposed himself fearlessly, and firing at the enemy in the open, hitting several’ when the enemy was advancing down the communication trench. He also assisted in keeping touch and supplying bombs throughout the night.

Like many soldiers, Rupert Price Hallowes was buried just behind the front line, near Sactuary Wood, although his remains were later reinterred at the Bedford House Commonwealth War Grave Commission Cemetry, near Zillebeke, Ypres.

Dr Peter Johnston, Collections Content Team Leader at the National Army Museum, says:

‘The National Army Museum’s Soldiers’ Stories series allows us to better understand the First World War, and the experiences of the soldiers who fought for our nation. Although exceptional, Hallowes’ story hints at the bravery that many young men displayed day-to-day while living in the trenches despite a tragic lack of progress. It serves as a poignant reminder that so many men fought and died for our country and for others.’