Where is the grave of Gerard Chowne?

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For some painters, Macedonia was their final destination. Gerard Henry Tilson Chowne (1875 India – 1917 Macedonia) was a British painter that was educated at the Slade school of art and art academies in Paris and Rome. He became a teacher of painting at the Liverpool University and founder of Sandon Studios in Liverpool. Before the Great War he travelled through France and Spain and created commercially successful paintings that were exhibited in London Salon, the Ballie Gallery, Leicester Gallery, among others. His artistic career was promising. Then the Great War started. He got commissioned by the 9th East Lancashire Regiment and sent to Salonika front in Macedonia. For his bravery he was promoted to Captain. The endeavors of this regiment on Macedonian front are well documented on the Regiment web site: http://www.kaiserscross.com/304501/552343.html. In the beginning of 1917 he was sent to Dojran Lake front, after French Allied Theatre Commander in Macedonia, general Maurice Saralli ordered an offensive. Unfortunately, this general did not have much of an infantry experience. He ordered British troops to attack from the malaria-filled swamps up the Doiran hills where the Bulgarian army occupied commanding positions and excellent observation posts. Sitting on top of the highest hill top was a massive Bulgarian concrete observation bunker unaffected by Allied shell fire and appropriately named ‘The Devil’s Eye’ by British troops.  Targets in likely British attack locations had been accurately predicted so that speedy artillery fire missions could hit those areas. Barbed wire defences were strong, formidable concrete bunkers protected the artillery and machine guns, and searchlights were sited to illuminate attack routes. Machine gunners had devised ‘fixed lines’ of firing so that they could hit troops in ravines even during periods of darkness. The morale of the Bulgarian soldiers was high as the best formation in their army, the 9th (Pleven) Division, defended these hills.

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The British attack started on the evening of 27th of April 1917. The British casualties were massive: 5000 soldiers. The estimated casualties at Bulgarian side in this first Battle of Dojran were around 1500. The corpses of the dead soldiers were rapidly decomposed in the hot sunlight, so they were buried quickly in the night during sporadic ceasefires.

One of those casualties was the painter and Captain Gerard Chowne. He died from Bulgarian machine gun fire in the evening of 1st of May. His body is buried somewhere in the hills above Dojran lake.

After his death, a memorial exhibition was opened at the New English Art Club winter exhibition the same year. Only few watercolors of Macedonian Front survived and were shown on this exhibition. In the summer of 1918, another exhibition of art from Salonika Front was opened, where the “star” of the show was supposed to be the famous British war painter William T. Wood. Only 7 watercolors of Gerard Chowne were selected for this exhibition. However, the lyricism of Chowne watercolors and the sadness of his loss stole the show, the art critics were praising Chowne work over the works of famous W.T. Wood.

One of these remaining 7 remaining watercolors from 1918 is in my possession – Lake Dawn. It is not difficult to understand why the critics were so impressed – Chowne captured the very rare moments of peace and birth of the day, before the roar of the machine guns wake up the Death. His works are filled with tranquility and lust for beauty.

Chowne contribution to Macedonian art legacy is significant. The least that he deserves is that someone finds his grave and honor him with perhaps small monument.

There are several WW1 memorials at Greek side, for example the Doirani memorial near Kilkis, Greece. I wonder if Chowne is mentioned there.

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