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66 men - Henry Rough

Rough H OJI 13-06-1917 p.6 smaller

Image from the
Oxford Journal Illustrated,
13 June 1917, p.6

Henry ROUGH

Henry Rough was born in 1895/96, the son of Frederick Rough (born in Wandsworth in 1857/58) and his wife Annie (born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1860/61). Frederick was a boat builder and Annie was described in the 1911 census as a housekeeper. The Roughs were a well-known boat-building family based at Long Bridges, on the Thames between Folly Bridge and Donnington Bridge.

Henry had three older brothers - Jack Clasper Rough (born 1886/87), Frank Bilton Rough (1889/90) and Frederick Allen [sometimes called Allen Frederick] Rough (1892); the elder two followed their father into the boat-building business whilst Frederick worked as a furniture salesman. There were also two younger children, Elizabeth Mary (born 1897/98) and Arthur Cecil (1901/02, known as Pete). Another brother, George Henry, died in infancy in 1893.

In 1901, when Henry was 5, the family were living at 2 Parker Street in Iffley Fields, East Oxford, but by 1911 they had moved to Riverside House, on the towpath between Donnington and Folly Bridges. On census night 1911 (2 April) Henry was in Wandsworth, staying with his paternal aunt Elizabeth Clasper (née Rough). Elizabeth was the widow of John Hawks Clasper, a leading racing boat builder in the 1870s and 1880s. It's possible that Henry was lodging with her whilst he was at school in London.

Henry's father Frederick was probably a former employee of his brother-in-law John Hawks Clasper, but by the 1880s he had set up his own boat-building business at Long Bridges. In the 1890s and early 1900s he became a leading racing boat builder and the supplier of many of the boats used in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. In 1913 his workshop at Long Bridges was burnt down by suffragettes [why he was targeted is unclear], an incident from which he was said never to recover. He died the following year, in December 1914, aged only 56; he was such a famous boat builder that his death was reported in the New York Times.

Soon after, Frederick's son Henry, who was a keen rower, joined the 7th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment as a Private, service no. 14476. He was sent to Greece where Anglo-French forces had begun landing at the port of Salonika on 5 October 1915. The troops were sent to provide military assistance to the Serbs who had recently been attacked by the combined German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian armies. Henry was killed in action on 24 or 25 April 1917, aged 21, during the First Battle of Doiran, fighting against Bulgarian forces. He was buried at the Doiran Military Cemetery in northern Greece, close to the Macedonian border.

Henry and Pete's brother Frederick Allen also fought in the War, but survived. He was a Lieutenant Corporal in the 1/4 Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, service no. 200423.

Henry's death prompted his younger brother Arthur Cecil (Pete) to join the Royal Navy on this 18th birthday. He served until 1936, by which time he had become a Chief Engine Room Artificer. When the Second World War started he joined the Merchant Navy and crossed the Atlantic many times on convoys carrying food and equipment.

Henry's sister Elizabeth married a tailor called Joseph Afford at St Matthew's church in December 1921.

In October 1922 Rough's boathouse at Longbridges (which had been built to replace the one which burnt down in 1913) was put up for auction.

With thanks to Mark Hemsworth (grandson of Pete Rough) and Dr Simon Wenham for additional information on the Rough family and their boat-building business.

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