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Second Lieutenant FRANK BOWER

1914-18 War Plaque in Church:

BOWER Frank  March 1917 2nd Lieut. Northumberland fusiliers, attached RFC

60th Sqdn., Royal Flying Corps and Northumberland Fusiliers

died aged 18 on 31 March 1917 Remembered with honour at BRAY MILITARY CEMETERY Frank was born in Scarborough in 1899 whilst the family where living at 15 Fulford Road. He was the youngest child of four to Joshua and Louisa Bower, and grandson of Mr Thomas Bower of Stradishall Place, near Newmarket.  Joshua was a tea planter in Ceylon and farmer and in 1906 he bought the Croft Estate in Somerford Keynes. Joshua also served in the war, first on voluntary Red Cross work, and then with frontline French ambulances and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.  His eldest son, Ian Bower, also served in the trenches in France. They were a patriotic family. Frank was educated first at ‘Marlburia’, Montreux, and the preparatory school of Stancliffe Hall, near Matlock and from here he passed to Repton.  He entered Sandhurst in January 1916 and in August of the same year he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, attached Royal Flying Corps.  Passing out from Reading, Netheravon, to Upavon, he finished his tests in record time, and gained his wings on Christmas Eve.  Very soon afterwards, he was sent to Gosport, where he completed his training, and on the 21st February he received orders for service with the British Expeditionary Force in France. Almost immediately he was attached to the 60th Squadron, and during his brief career he personally accounted for some German machines.  Twice he had his machine badly damaged by gun fire, but managed to get back and land safely. Once he attacked a double-seater German ‘plane carrying two men and four guns’, and single-handed destroyed it; he having a wing shot off and landing in a shell-hole just in front of British lines. However, after these adventures, on the 31st March 1917 he was fatally wounded in a fight with several German machines.  He was eighteen when he met his death. Frank was flying a Nieuport 23 aircraft of No. 60 Sqn, tail number A6774 on 30 March 1917 and engaged enemy aircraft over Fouquieres (to the northwest of Lens) at 11.45am.  As a result of the combat, Frank was wounded, and forced to land near Albert, to the south of the engagement.  He died as a result of his wounds the next day. A ‘first-hand’ account of Frank’s brave actions which led to his death are found in the account of Billy Bishop (Billy Bishop Went to War). Billy's world completely turned around between March 28 and August 16. On March 28, he led his first patrol, an event that proved completely uneventful. However, the same was not true on March 30, when the inexperienced Billy led his second patrol. His flight was decoyed into a numerically superior German force and his friend Lt. W. P. Garrett was shot down and killed. An explosive bullet from behind struck Frank Bower, another friend. Bower, in a state of severe shock, in extreme pain and with blood pouring from massive abdominal wounds, held his intestines in his body with one hand and flew back to base using his other hand to control the plane. After landing, he managed to walk 40 yards from his plane before collapsing. He died the next day, and the day after that Billy led his third flight, a flight in which he again was caught by a German ambush and in which two of his pilots were killed. During this period in France the average life of a British pilot in France was 45 days and 60 Squadron's casualty rate was 105 percent. Frank Bower was Mentioned in Despatches which were published in the London Gazette on 15th May 1917, probably awarded for his action with Lt Binnie that resulted in the bringing down of an enemy aircraft on 25th March 1917. His Commanding Officer describing his last encounter with the enemy:- ‘I write to give you such details as I can of the fight in which your son lost his life, and of his splendid courage.  In a very strong west wind, six of our machines, of whom Frank Bower was one, pursued eight Albatross scouts to the east of Douni.  He was soon to be in difficulties, and another of my pilots engaged a Hun machine that was firing at Bower. He was lost sight of in the clouds, and when next we heard of him he had flown back some 10 miles or more in bad weather, and landed his machine, shot riddled as he was, perfectly, so that this morning it was flown back by another pilot without any repairs being effected. Frank Bower was shot in the body and when taken into hospital from his aeroplane he was seen to be grievously wounded.  I had already recommended him for a decoration when the news came an hour ago (about 30 hours after the flight) that he had died at 13.50. Please accept both my congratulations on your son’s fine spirit and my deepest sympathy in the loss which I and the 60th Squadron share with you.  We all loved him and are deeply grieved at his loss.’ I can conclude the loss of Frank with an account of how the news reached Somerford Keynes from a correspondent. ‘On Sunday last a telegram reached the Croft announcing that Lieutenant Frank Bower of the Northumberland Fusiliers attached to the RFC had been seriously wounded in France.  Lieutenant Bower, who was only 18 years of age, was the youngest son of Mr J Bower, who himself having had a few days’ home from his duties in France, had with Mrs Bower, gone to bid his father goodbye before again departing for France on Monday morning.  Too late to acquaint them by other means, Miss Alice Bower journeyed to London by the first train on Monday, but scarcely had she left home when a second telegram arrived telling of his brother’s death.  The sad news has cast a gloom over the village, and the deepest sympathy is felt for the family.  The bright face and cheery manner of this gallant gentleman had made him a special favourite with everybody, whilst his genius, ability and courage made him especially suited for the RFC.’
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