Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, VC, KCVO, CBE

Is your surname Towse?

Research the Towse family

Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, VC, KCVO, CBE's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, VC, KCVO, CBE

Birthplace: London, Middlesex, England UK
Death: June 21, 1948 (84)
Berkshire, England UK
Immediate Family:

Husband of Gertrude Towse
Brother of Beatrice J B Towse

Managed by: Ralph Celt Christie
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, VC, KCVO, CBE

Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse VC KCVO CBE (23 April 1864 – 21 June 1948) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Towse, Sir (Ernest) Beachcroft Beckwith (1864–1948), army officer and campaigner for the welfare of blind people, was born at Regent's Park, London, on 23 April 1864, the elder of the two sons of Robert Beckwith Towse, solicitor, and his Irish wife, Julia Ann Corcoran. The high-spirited and adventurous Towse was educated at Stubbington House, Gosport, and Wellington College, Berkshire, and in 1883 he joined the 3rd Seaforth Highlanders (the Highland rifle militia); he was promoted lieutenant in December 1885. In 1886 he transferred to the Gordon Highlanders; he served with the Chitral relief force (1895), was at the storming of the Malakand Pass, was promoted captain in 1896, and served in the north-west frontier and Tirah campaigns (1897–8). Towse had married on 25 October 1892 Gertrude, younger daughter of John Christie, a stockbroker; they had no children. In October 1899 he went with the 1st battalion of his regiment to South Africa and was present at the advance on Kimberley and the battle of Magersfontein (11 December 1899) when the Highland brigade suffered heavy casualties. On 30 April 1900 on Mounba, when rallying his force of twelve men to attack some 150 Boers, he received the wound which blinded him. For his gallantry then and for his attempt at Magersfontein to carry his mortally wounded colonel to safety, he was awarded the Victoria Cross (gazetted 6 July 1900). He was mentioned in dispatches.His military career over, Towse turned all his vigorous powers to the service of the blind. He joined the council of the National Institute for the Blind (then the British and Foreign Blind Association) in 1901 and became vice-chairman later that year; he was also a member of the committee of the Incorporated Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind. Towse travelled the country to help the work of the institute and foster public interest in the welfare of blind people. When war broke out in 1914 he was soon an honorary staff captain (without pay and allowances) for base hospitals in France and Belgium. He brought comfort to many wounded, writing letters home from his braille notes; he was probably one of the first welfare officers, and was mentioned in dispatches.Before going to the war Towse suggested to the National Institute for the Blind that they should set up a subcommittee to look after blinded former servicemen. This, under the inspiration of Sir Arthur Pearson, developed into St Dunstan's, but Towse realized that there was still no help available for former servicemen who went blind through causes other than the war, or for the blind dependants of servicemen. In 1923, therefore, he inaugurated a Special Fund for Blind Ex-Servicemen which continued as the Sir Beachcroft Towse Ex-Service Fund. His concern for all who returned from the war led him to help in launching in 1917 the Comrades of the Great War, and as chairman he travelled during two years over 12,000 miles in the British Isles. Th99is organization merged with others to form the British Legion, of which he became a national vice-president in 1927, remaining in office until his death.Captain Towse's striking figure with its soldierly bearing and immaculate attire, including a tartan waistcoat, was often seen at great functions. In 1900 he was made a sergeant-at-arms in ordinary to the queen, and from 1903 to 1939 he was a member of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms. In 1920 he was appointed CBE and in 1927 KCVO for services to the blind and to former servicemen. In 1916 he became a knight of grace of the order of St John of Jerusalem.The Second World War brought Towse into yet another field of service when he made his home at Long Meadow, Goring-on-Thames, available for civilians blinded through air raids. It thus became the first Queen Elizabeth Home of Recovery and he remained there in charge of this important work of rehabilitation. In 1944, on account of continuous ill health and advancing years, he resigned from the chairmanship of the National Institute for the Blind he had assumed in 1923. His resignation was received ‘with a sense of personal loss and poignancy of regret almost too deep for words’, and he was elected president, an office which had been vacant since the death of Pearson in 1921.Towse was also a member of the livery of the Fishmongers' Company and of the court of the Clothworkers' Company, health alone preventing him from taking up the mastership of the latter, to which he was elected in 1941. He was also vice-president of Worcester College for the Blind, the Greater London Fund for the Blind, and the Hepburn Starey Blind Aid Society, and chairman of the British Wireless for the Blind Fund. In early life his chief interests, apart from his service career, had been polo, hunting, and big game shooting. After he was blinded he became a fine fisherman and a skilful carpenter and joiner.Towse's wife, Gertrude, had died in 1935, and in his later years he was cared for by a niece. He died at his home, Long Meadow, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on 21 June 1948.BASIL CURTIS, rev. ROGER T. STEARN


private information (1959) · personal knowledge (1959) · WWW · Burke, Peerage(1929) · S. Dark, The life of Sir Arthur Pearson [1922] · The register of the Victoria Cross, 3rd edn (1997) · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1948) · J. Dunn, The Parramatta cemeteries: St. John's(Parramatta, NSW, 1991), 87




  BFINA, documentary footage 


 W. Stoneman, photograph, NPG [see illus.] · photograph, repro. in The register of the Victoria cross, 313

Wealth at death  

 £25,051 16s. 3d.: probate, 25 Oct 1948, CGPLA Eng. & Wales \\


TOWSE, ERNEST BEACHCROFT BECKWITH, Captain, was born 23 April 1864, and educated at Wellington College. He was gazetted to the Wiltshire Regiment 10 December 1885, and was posted to the Gordon Highlanders 2 January 1886. In 1892 Captain Towse married Gertrude, younger daughter of John Christie. He served with the Chitral Relief Force, 1805, including Malakand (Medal with clasp). He also served on the NW Frontier of India and at Tirah, 1897-98 (two clasps), and in South Africa, 1899-1900. In this campaign he was mentioned in Despatches twice, received the Queen's Medal with three clasps, and was dangerously wounded. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for the services described in the London Gazette, 6 July 1900: "Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, Captain, Gordon Highlanders. Dates of Acts of Bravery: 11 December 1899; 30 April 1900. On the 11th December 1899, at the action of Magersfontein, Captain Towse was brought to notice by his commanding officer for his gallantry and devotion in assisting Colonel Downman, when mortally wounded, in the retirement, and endeavouring, when close up to the front of the firing-line, to carry Colonel Downman on his back; but finding this not possible, Captain Towse supported him till joined by Colour Sergeant Nelson and Lance Corporal Hodgson. On the 30th April, 1900, Captain Towse, with twelve men, took up a position on the top of Mount Thaba, far away from support. A force of about 150 Boers attempted to seize the same plateau, neither party appearing to see the other until they were but one hundred yards apart. Some of the Boers then got within forty yards of Captain Towse and his party, and called on him to surrender. He at once caused his men to open fire, and remained firing himself until severely wounded (both eyes shattered), thus succeeding in driving off the Boers. The gallantry of this officer in vigorously attacking the enemy (for he not only fired, but charged forward) saved the situation, notwithstanding the numerical superiority of the Boers". Captain Towse was decorated by Queen Victoria, by whom in 1900 he was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms. In 1902 he was reappointed Sergeant-at-Arms by King 1 Edward, and in 1903 became one of the Honorary Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms. He was Sergeant-at-Arms in Ordinary to His Majesty King George V, and was appointed to the Honorary Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms and served until 1939. Captain Towse was a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Captain Towse became an expert typist, and when the European War broke out he went to the front to type letters for wounded soldiers, and was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's Despatch in June 1916. In 1915 he was promoted Staff Captain of Base Hospitals without pay and allowances. Chairman of the Grand Council of the Comrades of the Great War. In 1921 he accompanied Field Marshal Earl Haig to South Africa to form an Empire League of ex-servicemen. Towse received the KCVO.Sir Beachcroft Towse died at Goring-on-Thames, Berkshire, on 21 June 1948, at the age of 84. VC, KCVO, CBE, IGS 1895 (1) Tirah 1897-8, QSA (3) MR, RofK, Paard, 1914-15 Star, BWM, VM, Knight of Grace of the Order of St John, 1911 Coronation Medal 1911, 1937 Coronation Medal.

view all

Sir Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, VC, KCVO, CBE's Timeline

April 23, 1864
London, Middlesex, England UK
June 21, 1948
Age 84
Berkshire, England UK