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Gowing was fascinated by "things military" and was gripped by the excitement generated by the events of the Russo-Turkish War of 1853-4. He was approaching his twentieth birthday, 'a dangerous age to many unsettled in mind', as Gowing said. Early in January 1854 he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Fusiliers.
His training began in Manchester and continued in Winchester; in June 1854 he went to the Crimea. He survived the campaign although he was wounded on several occasions: he even managed to survive a stay in the military hospital in Malta. At the end of the Crimean War, Gowing was sent to India where the Mutiny had broken out in 1857. His descriptions of events there reflect British attitudes of the time.
Gowing had been promoted to Sergeant during the Crimean War; in 1858 he became the Regimental drill-sergeant; he also married for the first time: the couple had twelve children. From drill-sergeant, he was promoted to Colour-Sergeant and in July 1859 he was appointed as acting Sergeant-Major. He was offered the opportunity of a commission in one of the Sepoy regiments but declined the offer, preferring to remain with the Royal Fusiliers. In 1862 he was offered a commission in the Royal Fusiliers but once more he declined, this time on financial grounds. He did not think that he would be able to support his growing family (of five children in four years of marriage) on an officer's pay.
In 1864, having completed a ten-year enlistment, he re-enlisted for a further term, to give himself a full twenty-one years' service and thus qualify for a pension. He remained in India during this time. His family was all but wiped out by cholera in 1869: only one child of the eight survived. The other seven died on the same day. His wife also died in India and when Gowing returned to England in 1876, at the age of 42, he took only two of the children born to him in India.
Gowing went to live in Southport and re-married, fathering another seven children; his second wife died in 1890. His third wife, Elizabeth, survived her husband. Between returning to England and his death, Gowing lived in a number of different towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire. He had his account of the Crimean War and his service in India during the Mutiny published privately and sold them to office and factory workers in Lancashire: other than his army pension of 2/6d a day, this was his only income. Timothy Gowing died on 3 February 1908 at the age of 74.
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