Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lives revealed from the Great War ........... Cyril and Mabel Bowman of Atwood Road Didsbury

The Victory Medal of Mr Bowman
I am looking at the Victory Medal which was awarded to Cyril Hopwood Bowman, who enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and came through the Great War.

Now there is nothing exceptional about that, many did including five of my immediate family.

But the thing about those who went off to fight is that all too often we never delve too deep into their lives before or after that conflict.

In part that is because the media and many historians have focused on those who never came back, whose lives were cut tragically short and became the Lost Generation.

And yet many more did return, settled down, lived long and productive lives and while they may never have forgotten the war put it behind them.

I don’t know how far Cyril Hopwood Bowman managed to readjust to civilian life.

After all until yesterday I knew nothing of him, his wife or his life before the Great War.

It was the news that my friend David Harrop had acquired Mr Bowman’s Victory Medal that set me off looking for the story of this one man.

Cyril Hopwood Bowman was born in Pendleton in 1885 and when war broke out in 1914 he was working as a bank clerk for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank.

C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown but circa 1914-16
He enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and joined the 2nd City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

The 2nd City Battalion or the 17th Manchester’s was one of those new units made up from the hundreds of white collar workers who joined the Colours at the outbreak of war.

In November 1915 he was posted to France and apart from a short break two years later he remained on the Western Front where he was wounded and was finally demobbed in March 1919.

War Memorial, Didsbury, circa 1959
And there is much more for he was one of the 40% of First World War soldiers whose military records survived the Blitz of 1940-41.

And so we know he was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 114 lbs, had brown eyes black hair, and had a ruddy complexion.

Laid bare in the same documents are his full medical history, a letter from his mother asking that he be considered for clerical duties after he had been wounded and undergone a serious operation for a recurrent health problem and his service on the Western Front.

In 1917 he had married Mabel Frost also from Pendleton and also born in 1885, and as you do I became intrigued by their courtship.

He lived in Pine Road Didsbury and she on Atwood Road and after  the war they settled down in what had been her family home.

So had they known each other for a long time, were they members of the same church, or debating society or had they met on the way to work?

And there for the moment their lives become vague. Mr Bowman died in 1954 and Mrs Bowman four years later.

I thought they may been buried in Southern Cemetery but there are no records of their internment or cremation in any of the city’s cemeteries and at present I have no idea whether they had children or whether he returned his old occupation of bank clerk.

Roll of Honour, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank
That said he can be found on the Roll of Honour of the Lancashire and Yorkshire bank which lists him as having worked at the Portland Street branch.

And we also have a photograph of C Company but as yet I cannot identify Mr Bowman so while I have gone looking for a man who will be 35 when the picture was taken I have so far drawn a blank.

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, 133 Portland Street, circa 1900
But then just maybe someone who remembers him from when he lived in Atwood Road may be able to help and in the meantime I think I will venture down to those two houses in Didsbury, and check out 133 Potland Street where he worked in 1914 which was just on the corner with Oxford Road.

All of which just leaves me to thank David who set me off on the search and to wait for when Mr Bowman’s medal goes on display in his permanent exhibition of Great War memorabilia at the Memorial Hall in Southern Cemetery.

It is a wonderful collection of material including photographs, medals, postcards and letters along with official documents and the many other items.

Pictures; Victory Medal from the collection of David Harrop, C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown, Manchester Regiment City Battalions, 1914-16, and Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, Roll of Honour courtesy of The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society, War Memorial and Library from the series, Didsbury, Lilywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1959, courtesy of TuckDB and detail of Portland street showing 133 Portland Street, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, circa 1900, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

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