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Alfred Rowell was born in Ballarat and was a Plumber and Gas-Fitter by trade when he enlisted in the 39th Battalion, C Company on 9 March 1916 at the age of 24. His unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A11 Ascanius on 27 May 1916 and served in France with the 39th Battalion as a stretcher-bearer. His ability as a cornet player earned him a place in the battalion band, and before returning to Australia in 1919 he was granted special leave to undertake further cornet training at London's Albert Hall. Upon his return, he joined the Ballarat Soldiers Memorial Band and served for 25 years as Band Master.
Tree No. 2138