031 – Private John Francis and Roland Joseph Thow

Private John Francis 40th Battalion
Roland Joseph Thow

The Thow brothers were the sons of Francis and Elizabeth Thow. Both men worked as labourers. John was the older of the two brothers at 39 years of age. A married labourer from Wynyard. He volunteered for enlistment  on 14 February 1916 and was allotted to 40th Battalion ‘B’ Company.

Roland volunteered for enlistment on 7 March 1916, possibly with the intention of being able to join his older brother at the front.  Despite being at least 7 years younger, he was unable to pass the medical examination and was discharged 20 March 1916 due to an old ankle injury and mild flat feet.

Private John Thow departed England for the Front with Private John McHugh among others on 23 November 1916. On 16 April 1917 the 40th Battalion relieved the 38th Battalion in the front line east of Treux and Buire. Whilst here Private John Thow was slightly injured but managed to remain on duty.

On 19 December 1917 he was granted leave and able to spend Christmas in England away from the front line. He returned to his unit on 2 January 1918.

In September whilst the battalion was in the line near Roisel, John Thow sustained a serious scald to his right foot. The scalding was deemed to have been an accident. Still it meant that he needed to be evacuated to England for treatment. On 4 February he was sufficiently recovered to be taken on strength with the No. 1 Command Depot. He embarked for Australia on 12 April 1919.

Most, if not all accidents such as that sustained by John Thow would have been investigated to ascertain whether the injury was the result of an accident or had been self inflicted. Self-inflicted wounds were not uncommon among soldiers who were struggling to cope with being at the Front. Any soldier who deliberately caused themselves harm was liable to be punished severely under military law. While the threat was there it was extremely rare for a soldier found guilty of self-harm to be later given a prison sentence on release from hospital.

In 1922 John Thow and his family moved to King Island where he was involved in share farming. He also had an interest in trotters with his son Bill. John Thow died on King Island in 1949 aged 73 after a period of ill health.