Initially we could find only a few details about Private Bowyer which led us to believe that he had died on active service in March 1915. He is commemorated on the war memorials at Biddulph and Brindley Ford but information on his early life and military service has proved difficult to trace. The only clue that we found was in a newspaper cutting from the Chronicle:
“Lance-Corporal H. Stockton (North Staffordshire Regiment), New Buildings, Black Bull, died of gas poisoning on May 22nd, 1918. He enlisted in September 1914, prior to which he was employed by Messrs. R. Heath and Sons. He was 26 years of age. A brother, Gunner P. Stockton, R.F.A., aged 19, was killed in action on July 30th 1917; another brother, Private James Stockton, Worcester Regiment, was discharged through wounds. A brother-in-law, Private John Bowyer, Coldstream Guards, aged 27 years, died while on active service on March 27th 1915.”
Believing the Chronicle details to be correct, it would then seem that Private John Bowyer’s sister had married a Stockton and John’s death occurred on March 27th 1915. St. Lawrence marriage register records the marriage of Harry Stockton and Mary Bowyer on January 24th 1918. She gave her father’s name as Edward and his occupation as a lime burner.
From this detail it has been possible to locate John in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 census returns. John was born in 1890 and his birth was registered at Norton. In 1891 he was just five months old and with his parents, Edward and Mary, living at Brown Edge. Ten years later, again living at Brown Edge, John was also shown with his sister, Mary. By 1911, the family resided at 30, Ridgway, Norton-in-the Moors. John was now aged 20 and a miner.
As we were unable to trace an entry for John on the CWGC site or to locate a medal card, we included John in those that fell in 1915, especially as a Sentinel report on the death of Harry Stockton provided the same details with regards to the death of John Bowyer.
However, team member Elaine Bryan stumbled across a pension record for a John Bowyer of Brindley Ford and this does seem to relate to our John. His father was named as Edward and his address given as 27, New Buildings, Brindley Ford. It would appear that a printing or transcription error, giving John’s date of death as 1915, was the source of our problem. John’s pension records indicate that he died on March 27th 1918.
On February 21st 1916 John enlisted at Tunstall in the 5th Reserve Battalion Coldstream Guards, and trained at Caterham and was later stationed at Windsor. He was 5ft 10in tall, unmarried and a collier. He mobilized on January 29th 1917, undergoing a medical examination on the 31st which he passed as A1. John then fulfilled ordinary military duties until taken ill in August 1917 when he was admitted to the Queen Alexandria Millbank Military Hospital London SW1 in September.
The reason given was “Tubercle of Lung, not the result of but aggravated by ordinary military service”. The condition did not improve and John’s illness became very serious. On October 11th 1917 he was discharged as he was “no longer physically fit for war service”, and was recommended for treatment at a sanatorium.
At home on March 27th 1918 John Bowyer died. A note in his records states, “Liable to be sent a statutory order on 11-10-1918 to present himself for medical re-examination under military service”, sadly his death came before this examination could be carried out.
His death was registered at Biddulph.
Private John Bowyer is remembered on the Biddulph memorials and also the Brindley Ford memorial.
Elaine Heathcote, Mike Turnock and Elaine Bryan.