Lancaster War Memorial
According to Bill Thompson’s account Robert Bowker had been a member of the 4th Lancaster Wesley Troop in the early days. In the WW1 Scout Roll of Honour the Headquarters Gazette Reference: May 1917, pg 108 lists him as “Late Assistant Scoutmaster 4th Lancaster Troop.”
Robert was a son of William Edward and Mary Ann (nee Hill) who were married at Christ Church 23 May 1889. Robert was born on 8 December 1894 at 56 Williamson Road, Lancaster and baptized at Christ Church on 12 January 1895.
In the 1911 census he is living with his parents at 32 Dumbarton Road, Lancaster and worked as a Linoleum Warehouseman. His father is a School Attendance Officer.
Robert enlisted in the 1/5 Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in September 1914, service number 2455, along with his former Scout colleagues Herbert Dobson and Bill Thompson, later becoming a Lance Corporal service number 240677.
Records show that he was killed on 18 March 1917, age 22, and is buried at Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Begium grave no. VI C 12.
Extract from the War Diary of the 1/5 Battalion (courtesy of the Regimental Museum):
16th March 1917
Battalion move to CANAL BANK to relieve 1st/4th King’s Own.
17th March 1917
Beautiful day, Sunny, Wind W, Day spent chiefly in cleaning up washing and rubbing feet. Certain number of officers reconnoitered the new Sector.
18th March 1917
Dull morning, slight showers turning to fine and sunny in the afternoon. Enemy shelled Ypres heavily from 1.0 – 3.30 pm. Our aircraft were active. 7 Observation balloons (4 British) were seen up. Two casualties: 240115 Sergeant Lund C. H. 240667 L/C Bowker R. Killed by Shrapnel.
LANCASTER BOOK OF HONOUR
Lance Corporal 240677 1st/5th Bn., King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regt.)
who died on Sunday 18/03/1917. Age 22
Son of Wm. Ed. and Mary A. Bowker, of Lancaster.
VLAMERTINGHE MILITARY CEMETERY, Ref: VI. C. 12., Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Borough of Lancaster Civic Reception H M Forces Report Form shows:
Robert Bowker. Resided at 32 Dumbarton Road, Lancaster. A single man. 2345 L/Cpl 1/5th
K.O.R.L. Regt. He served for 5 months at home, and 2 years and 1 month abroad. killed in Action.
Robert Bowker, L/CPL., 240077. King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regt.) 1/5 Bn.
Enlisted in Lancaster.
Died 18/03/1917. Killed in Action. France & Flanders.
Source: Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919
Bowker Robert Lance Corporal 5th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment
killed in action in France 18 March, 1917, age 22, address Dumbarton Road, Lancaster,
educated at Christ Church School, employed Mr A H Mansergh. Son of Mr William Bowker,
School Attendance Officer for Lancaster Corporation, his younger brother is serving in the
Army Ordnance Corps.
Source: Lancaster Guardian date 24 March, 1917 page 8, ibid 31 March 1917, page 8, photo
Lancaster Guardian March 24, 1917
LOCAL WAR ITEMS.
Lce-Corpl. R. Bowker (Killed).
Much sympathy is expressed with the family of Mr. William Bowker, of Dumbarton-road school attendance officer for the Lancaster Corporation, who on Thursday morning received the tidings that his eldest son, Lance-Corpl. Robert Bowker, King’s Own, was killed in France on the 18th inst. The sad news was conveyed in a sympathetic letter from Capt. W. Harriss, who wrote: “It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you of the death of your son,
Lce. Cpl R. Bowker, of this regiment. He was struck in the throat by a shrapnel bullet about half-past eight this morning, and died at once. I don’t think he suffered any pain at all, which is some consolation.
Your son had been employed in the orderly room for some time, and had proved himself a most good, efficient, and
willing soldier. In addition to his usefulness as a soldier he was a splendid boy, and one whom we could ill afford to lose. On behalf of the Commanding Officer, officers and men of the battalion I offer you my sincerest sympathy in
your great loss.”
Acting Adjutant W. S. Macfarlane wrote expressing his sympathy, and adding ” I have been in constant association with your son, who was always cheerful and a willing worker, and to-day we have missed him very much indeed.”
Further details are supplied in a letter from one of deceased’s pals, Corpl. J. T. Price, who writes: “He was sitting near the entrance of the dug-out, writing, when a small shrapnel shell burst outside. One of the bullets caught Bob in the right-hand side of the neck, severing the jugular vein. He jumped up and ran outside. When we got to him he was lying in the trench and quickly expired. He suffered no pain, so far as I could see, and his face was calm when he passed away.”
Lance-Corpl. Bowker, who was 22 years of age, was an old boy of Christ Church School, and prior to the war was in the employment of Mr. A. H. Mansergh. He enlisted in the “Pals” in September 1914 and went with them to France.
He has been with the Fifth through all their engagements, and was considered one of the fortunate ones, having never previously had a scratch. His younger brother, Pte. W. E. Bowker, is in the Army Ordnance Corps.
Lancaster Guardian March 31, 1917
LOCAL WAR ITEMS.
Lce-Corpl. R. Bowker (Killed).
There has been a wide-spread expression of sympathy with the family of Mr. William Bowker, of Dumbarton-road, whose eldest son, Lance-Corpl. Robert Bowker, King’s Own, was as we reported last week, killed in France on the 18th inst. Lance-Corpl. Bowker, who was 22 years of age, went with the “Pals” of the King’s Own to France, and though he had been through much severe fighting had escaped without a scratch until the fatal shot on the 18th. He was a young man of exceptional attainments, and looked forward to a bright career.