Lawrence Rowntree

Joseph Rowntree’s grandson, son of John Wilhelm, Lawrence Rowntree fell in action in World War I; the York Casualty Roll of Honour records as follows:

‘Rowntree, Lawrence Edmund 
Second Lieutenant ‘A’ Bty. 26th Bde., Royal Field Artillery. Killed in action 25th November 1917. Aged 22. Son of Constance Margaret Rowntree, of Low Hall, Scalby, Scarborough, and the late John Wilhelm Rowntree. Buried Vlamertinge New Military Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, XI. B. 5. Commemorated in The King’s Book.’

Lawrence (known to his family as Laurie) was a medical student at Kings College Cambridge aged 19 years when he wrote a diary from the front. He wrote it probably for his grandfather Joseph Rowntree. Joseph had lent him his Daimler car to take with him to use when he served with the Friends Ambulance Unit.

His sister Jean Rowntree later wrote that he probably did not think out the pacifist issue very deeply – since to serve on the front as a medic was commitment enough.

In York there was a strong degree of jingoism and hostility towards the pacifist Quakers, as can be seen in the responses to the work of Arnold Rowntree MP. At some point Lawrence decided to enlist properly, and he was wounded on the Somme where he drove one of the first tanks and was killed at Paschendaele in November 1917.

At the end of his diary play he writes “Such as it is, here it is. Perhaps it will read better some years later when all this is a nightmare that is past, and not one that we have not woken up from.”

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