Born: 1890
Died: 25 September 1915, Loos
Address: 135 Leeds Road, Windhill
Occupation: Postman, formerly porter at Shipley station
Organisations/clubs: Windhill Liberal Club
Rank: L Cpl
Rolls of Honour: Christchurch, Windhill; Post Office, Shipley
Regiment: King’s Royal Rifles
Alfred A Bowyer
Postal workers Roll of Honour Postal workers Roll of Honour Postal workers Roll of Honour
The Shipley Times & Express relied heavily on people passing on information about serving men from the letters sent back from the front and it would seem that Alf Bowyer’s friends were among the most co-operative, so we are able to learn quite a lot about his war. The newspaper first mentioned Alf on 7 August 1914 as one of eight Shipley postmen who, as reservists, had been called up. ‘As they had to proceed to widely different centres, there was no formal send-off but the Postmaster, Mr R Shanks, addressed a few appropriate words to the Reservists and expressed the hope they would soon be able to resume their work at the Post Office.’ On 4 December we learn that Alf’s fellow members of Windhill Liberal Club had been sending him good wishes and cigarettes and he had sent a postcard, thanking them and adding ‘that last weekend his regiment had been given a rest after having had a very busy time in the field. He reports that he is keeping in good health.’ On the following page there is a letter from L Cpl Turner which includes: ‘Turner goes on to say that the day before he was wounded he met Alf Bowyer, who was formerly a porter at Shipley but afterwards became a postman. “We had a good old handshake and a chat for a few minutes. Our respective regiments had been brought out of the firing line for a days’ rest but while we were talking we were ordered back as the Germans were pressing our fellows very hard. “When the Germans saw the reinforcements advancing they didn’t half put some shells into us. I was wounded on my right side and the bullet lodged in my stomach.” On 18 December the newspaper published some brief extracts from a letter Alf had written to Mr E Ward, head postmaster at Shipley and we learn that his former round as a postman was Esholt rural area After saying that he had seen a great deal of fighting but escaped injury, ‘Bowyer refers to the pitiful plight of the Belgians, many of whose ruined homes he has seen. ‘Although he is prepared to do his duty as a soldier he evidently looks forward to coming back to Shipley: “I often wish,” he says, “I was on the old round again. There is no place like England.” During another rest period, on 20 December 1914, Alf again wrote to Windhill Liberal Club. He told them that his brother had left a good job in London to enlist. He added: “On November 2nd I met Dick Turner, who was a porter at Saltaire railway station and who is now wounded. The account was published in the paper which I expect you have all read… “We have got some good winter clothing, including fur coats. If you were to see us you would think we had been to the North Pole. I am thankful we have a cover over our heads “Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and the best of luck.”
On 29 October 1915, the Shipley Times & Express reported: ‘L Cpl A Bowyer of the King’s Royal Rifles who, before the war, lodged with Mr and Mrs Wall of 138 Leeds Road, Windhill, has been killed. ‘He was 25 years of age and had served six years in Egypt and India. He has been at the Front since the early days of the war. ‘L Cpl Bowyer was a postman at Shipley and a well-known member
of the Windhill Liberal Club where the flag is hoisted half-mast. ‘During the time he has been on active service, several interesting letters have been received from him describing his experiences. In a letter from a comrade to the deceased’s mother it is stated that L Cpl Bowyer was killed on 25th of September. He was killed in the big fight around Loos and died a hero’s death. ‘He is the third Shipley postman who has lost his life in the war.’
The final mention of Alf Bowyer comes on 26 November 1915, 15 months after we learned of his call-up. It is a report of a memorial service in Esholt where he had delivered letters which was attended by Mr R Shanks and several of his postmen as well as representatives of the Midland Railway for whom Alf had also worked. ‘The service was conducted by the vicar, Rev C E D Crane, who in his sermon remarked that the dead soldier had qualities which everyone might practice. ‘Rev Crane had been greatly impressed by his promptness, strong character and feeling for others. His letters from the battlefield were always of an interesting nature and full of gratitude. ‘In one he said, “It is terrible to think of the lives that have been sacrificed. We, the Regulars, not only give credit to our brave men who have volunteered to come out to the Front but also to the women who have given up so freely their husbands and lovers for King and country. “We also give credit to the women who have helped to make different things for the troops. “The enemy are using anything to win this war. I hear that it is terrible for anyone to have a dose of gas. They kept the cylinders on for four and a half hours and the clouds of gas rose to forty feet.” ‘The vicar added that Bowyer was regarded as a brave man and was spoken of as having been “one of the first in the charge.” “If we had had a large army at the beginning,” he said in another letter, “the Germans would never have done what they had done and we have all our work cut out yet, for the enemy are far from being beaten. “I hope that God will prosper all our men and speedily help to bring this war to a termination.” ‘There was one grand thing they could say in regard to the deceased, concluded Mr Crane, namely that his war was over and that peace had been declared. ‘At the close of the service, Mr J Ingleby played the Dead March.’
On 23 January 1915, Alf wrote to Mr R Shanks, Shipley postmaster: Dear Mr Shanks,  Your most kind and welcome letter to hand. I was heartily pleased to have news from you. Very many thanks for the parcel of woollens which I received quite safe on Christmas Day. It was a great surprise to me and the articles came in very useful. “I have been waiting since Christmas for a parcel sent to me from home but it has not arrived yet. I have heard several men say their parcels have not reached them. It is a shame for troops to be robbed of parcels sent from home. “Since Boxing Day we have been kept busy and have had some hardships. The weather is terrible, rain and snow every day. “This is my first chance of being able to write to you, our lot having been ordered a rest, which feels a great relief. I am sure it will be a great blessing to us when the war is over. “I have so far had good health. I came out here with the regiment on August 12th, took part in the retirement from Mons and was in some hard marches. I have been in several fights and hot corners and have only to thank God for being saved from injury. I have seen plenty of suffering.  “I was sorry to hear that Mr Brooks (another Shipley postman) is a prisoner of war and hope that he will be treated properly. I would not care to be taken prisoner but at times it cannot be avoided. “I was very sorry to hear that two of the postmen had lost their lives. I am trusting in God that I shall return safely to Shipley again after this trying time is over, but I think the war is going to go on a long time yet. It will be a great relief for the Expeditionary Force when Lord Kitchener’s Army arrives at the front. “Thanking you again for your kindness, yours sincerely, A Bowyer” A brief mention on 16 April 1915 refers to him as L Cpl A Bowyer and says he is ‘going on all right.” A month later there was a longer letter to his friends at the Liberal Club, which expresses some anger and perhaps disillusion with what is happening back home. “On May 9th there was a very heavy bombardment which lasted all day. There were thousands of guns going off and the men could hardly hear themselves speak.” The report goes on: ‘Referring to the sinking of the Lusitania, the employment by the Germans of poisonous gases and the killing of wounded British soldiers, he says it is pretty evident that the white savages (the Germans) will stop for nothing. When the British soldiers get hold of the brutes the latter ask for mercy! ‘He expresses the opinion that it is about time the English paid the Germans back in their own coin. Like all other British Tommies he is confident that sooner or later the Germans will have to go under.  ‘Bowyer thinks that before the war is over there will be conscription in England. He refers to a lecture given at the Windhill Liberal Club some years ago on the work of the National Service League and recalls the fact that the speaker on that occasion urged the necessity for young men having military training to be in readiness for a crisis such as the present. ‘The late Lord Roberts, he adds, was the man who knew something and if the people had taken notice of him this country would have been able to have finished the war by now. ‘Speaking of the presence of aliens in England he says it is all right to boast of England being a free country but in his opinion it has opened its doors too wide for foreigners and will learn a great deal from this war. ‘He is glad to know that the Windhill Liberal Club has its Roll of Honour and he thanks the members for the gifts which they have been good enough to send him.’
Cemetery at Loos
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