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Frederick Douglas Atlee Bowra

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Frederick Douglas Atlee Bowra
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Frederick before enlistment - Honour Your Anzac website
Personal Information
Date of Birth 9 Oct 1887
Place of Birth Perth, Western Australia
Death 29 Oct 1915
Place of Death Gallipoli, Turkey
Age at Enlistment 27 years, 8 months
Description 5'10½" (1.m) tall ; 161 lbs
73.028 kg
Occupation Engineer, Western Australian Government Railways
Religion Church of England
Address Devon road, West Guildford, Western Australia
Next of Kin Wife , Mrs Minnie Bowra
Military Information
Reg Number Lieutenant
Date of Enlistment 21 Jun 1915
Rank Lieutenant
Unit/Formation Engineers - 4th Field Company
Date of Embarkation 25 Jun 1915 ‒ 18 Jul 1915 (9 Jul 1915)
Ship Embarked On HMAT A62 Wandilla
Fate Killed in Action 29 Oct 1915
Monument Guildford
Kelmscott-Armadale Parish Roll of Honour
Australian War Memorial
Medals 1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal



Pre War

Entered service with Western Australian Government Railways (Way and Works Branch) aged 15 years and 5 months on 9 Mar 1903 as a probationary (?) Cadet. Salary was 2/6d per day. On 1 Dec 1903 he was made permanent and his pay was then £40 per annum. In Jul 1904 it increased to £50 p.a.; Jul 1905 to £70 p.a.; Jul 1906 to £90. On 1 Jul 1909 he is appointed Draftsman with salary of £160; increased to £180 on 1 Jul 1910; £200 on 1 Jan 1911; £210 on 1 Jul 1911; £220 on 1 Jul 1912; and £235 from 1 Jul 1913.

Served in the Citizen Military Forces for 4 years prior to WW1, with No.1 Battery Austalian Field Artillery from May 1910 - March 1911; and as a Lieutenant in 13th Field Company Engineers, March 1911 to June 1915.

In the 1910 Electoral Roll Fred is listed as living in Kelmscott, occupation, draftsman. He married Minnie Salter in the Canning District during 1911 and in the 1914 Western Australian Directory his address was given as Devon street, West Guildford.

War Service

On appointment, Fred was allocated to the Engineers (Field Company) Reinforcements, travelling with them to Egypt. On arrival he appears to have become an innaugural member of the 4th Field Company, Engineers which formed in Heliopolis, Egypt during early August 1915. The 4th Field Company took enlisted men from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, and officers from the 3rd Field Company like Fred.

Following training, the Company on 4 Sep 1915 embarked on Z49 HMT Knight Templar in Alexandria harbour and sailed for Mudros which it reached in the late afternoon of 7 Sep 1915. The Company landed at Anzac Cove early on 13 Sep 1915, and moved its stores to a base at Wire Gulley. Lt Bowra led 3 Section to Scott's Post where they relieved 1st Field Company sappers.

During late September they restarted two mine tunnels towards a crater that it was thought the Turks were trying to reach. While several mines were exploded, impact on the enemy seemed minor and more tunnels were being constructed, but by the middle of October work was hampered by the shortage of air pumps and length of hoses.

On 29 Oct 1915 the Australian tunnellers set of a 150 pound Amortol charge at a depth of 35 feet, which appeared not to fracture the ground above. The assumption was made that the force must have been taken up by an enemy tunnel above the Australian one, and Lt Bowra was sent in to investigate. Carrying a candle he set off a second charge accidentally, but was unharmed. He then went down the shaft and was asphyxiated by gas poisoning in the mine. Lt Thom and three others lost their lives trying to recover him, and 20 others were temporarily disabled.[1]

  • Frederick Bowra's grave marker
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Location of Frederick's gave
"In some reports, references are made to a number of Australians who were “gassed” on the peninsular. These, however, were men who were injured by the poisonous gases following the explosion of some of our own mines. If a mine, when fired, did not break through satisfactorily to the open air or to the enemy’s workings, the poisonous gas left by the explosion remained in the tunnel, endangering the life of anyone who entered it. For example, on Oct. 29, in order to make sure that a working party might safely enter Tunnel C2, in which a mine had just been fired, Lieut. F. D. A. Bowra (of Perth) of the 4th Fld. Coy. went down the rope ladder in the shaft leading to it. He had warned Lieut. E. T. Bazeley (of Nagambie, Vic.) of the 22nd Bn. that there might be danger from poisonous gases, and as he did not return Bazeley and a man named Currington (of Annandale, N.S.W.) went down with a rope. They found Bowra collapsed, but before they could rescue him both were overcome. Bazeley had barely strength to climb the ladder; Currington began to climb and fell back. Maj. Newcombe and Lieut. Thom were summoned from the 4th Coy.’s H.Q., and Thom, refusing to be tied to the rope, went down, but collapsed before he could save Bowra. The gas was now coming up the shaft. Cpls. J. A. Park (of Sydney), C. F. Mills (of Sydney), W. Bowden (of Geelong, Vic.), J. Shaw (of Kalgoorlie, W. Aust.), and others went down, but Thom, Bowra, Currington and two other men of the 22nd, Pte. W. B. S. Good (of Wonthaggi, Vic) and Pte. G. Stelling (of Essendon, Vic.) died, and Col. G. C. E. Elliott, chief engineer of the division, Maj. S. F. Newcombe, and twelve others were seriously “gassed.” (Currington had five brothers serving at the war.). A similar accident had occurred shortly before in a mine-gallery at Russell’s Top, where an officer of the 5th Field Coy., Lieut. E. J. Howells (of Camberwell, Vic), became unconscious, but was dragged out by Cpl. J. H. Precious (of Melbourne), who himself collapsed just as he reached safety. Both survived."[2][3]


Minnie was granted a War Pension of £91 per annum from 30 Dec 1915, and sons Douglas Samuel (born 1912) and Geoffrey Frederick (born 24 Jul 1914) £13 each per annum. The boy's pensions were later increased to £26 per annum. Geoffrey married Phyllis M Carlton in 1936 and died 5 Nov 1993 at Safety Bay.

Notes

Son of Frederick James and Maria Jane Bowra.

  1. https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1008669/large/5064917.JPG accessed 20 Nov 2017
  2. The Official History of Australia in the war of 1914 – 1918. The Story of Anzac. Volume 2. C. E. W. Bean. University of Queensland Press, page 823
  3. http://www.spirits-of-gallipoli.com/honour/Bowra-FDA

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