SECOND LIEUTENANT THOMAS GEORGE BOWLER

Died 30th June 1917
No. 7596 of the Royal Garrison Artillery, 6th Siege Battery.
Born: Woburn Sands, 12th January 1892

Thomas's parents, Thomas and Catherine, lived at “Rushmere”, Theydon Avenue. Thomas Snr. was a builder and contractor. They had at least nine children, and seven had been baptised at Woburn Sands, amongst them were Lillian, Louisa and Reginald Charles.

Thomas had been apprenticed to James Tansley, a grocer of the High Street, Woburn Sands, and also to Mr Woodings at Bedford, (Probably another grocer, although there was also a Woodings who was a tailor) before going to work at Watford. He was a devout Methodist, and was in training to enter the ministry. He was known locally as a preacher of considerable ability.

According to his army papers, he enlisted as a private at Woolwich on 10th July 1915, giving his occupation as “Builders Clerk”. He was 5' 5", weighed 117lbs, and wore glasses. By September, he was a Lance Corporal in the Army Pay Corp., and seems to have been stationed in Ireland until he transferred to the Officer Cadet Artillery Brigade. He elected for Horse Transport, and was originally assigned to “3b” Reserve Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. After training as an officer in September 1916 at Winchester and Exeter, he went to France at Easter 1917. The section he was with, the 6th Siege Battery, ended the war as a section of six 6" howitzers.

The War Office telephoned his parents with the news that he was killed in action at Messines, Belgium, and buried on Hill 63, near Bailleul. He was 25. On his death, his picture appeared in “The Beds Times”, with the news that Major W. H. Fry had written to his parents telling them their son was killed instantaneously in an Operations Post. The Major said in his letter that Bowler was “...a ripping little fellow”, and “...always so cheery and willing”. At the Wesleyan chapel, Mr H. S. Manning lead the mourning at the Sunday service.

He was originally buried in Chateau Rosenberg Military Cemetery Extension, Ploegsteert, but the graves were later incorporated into the Berks Cemetery Extension, Ploegsteert, Belgium. Listed on the Woburn Sands Memorial and the Methodist Memorial. After his death, his effects were sent to his family, who complained that his jewellery, glasses and some money were missing. They eventually settled for compensation from the War Office. His army service papers have survived at the Public Records Office, Kew.

Thomas Bowler, from The Beds Times

A memorial stone in St Michaels churchyard also lists his brother-in-law, C. Herbert Richardson (See separate entry).