Bowron J.W.


51591 Private John William Bowron, 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment died of wounds 10 September 1918.  He was 25 years old, married to Bertha and they had 2 children.  John Bowron is buried at Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France and commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages, West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

John William Bowron was born 15 July 1893[1] to William and Isabella (nee Moses) at West Auckland.  There were at least 3 children to this marriage:

  • William (1890 – 91)
  • John William born 1893
  • Eliza Jane born c1896[2]

all born at West Auckland.  William was previously married to Ann and they had 3 children: [3]

  • George born c.1880
  • Elizabeth born c.1882
  • Ann born c.1884[4]

all born at West Auckland.  By 1891 Ann had died and William was a widower.

In 1911, John Bowron resided with his half brother George along with his parents William and Isabella.  George was now aged 30, John was aged 17 and his sister Eliza Jane was 15 years old.  William worked as a boot maker, George was a fitter at the Bishop Auckland loco depot and John was a coal miner (putter).  They lived at Mill Bank, West Auckland.[5]

John married Bertha Coulthard in 1916 [6] and they had 2 children, one being named John William who was born in 1919.[7]

Service History

The service record of Private J.W. Bowron has not been traced.  John W. Bowron enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the regimental number 78868. [8] He was transferred to the 1/East Yorks and given the regimental number 51591.  He was awarded the British War and Victory medals thus by inference, did not enter France until after 31 December 1915. [9]

At the outbreak of war, the 1/East Yorkshire Regiment came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division and entered France 10 September 1914.  In November 1915, the battalion joined the 64th Brigade, 21st Division.[10]  Units within this division were:

  • 9th, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th KOYLI disbanded February 1918
  • 1st, East Yorkshire Regiment (EYR) joined November 1915
  • 14th, Durham Light Infantry (DLI) left November 1915
  • 15th, DLI

The 21st Division saw action on the western front:

  • 1915: Loos
  • 1916: Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy)
  • 1917: German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, Arras (First & Third Scarpe, Bullecourt), Passchendaele (Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Passchendaele) Cambrai
  • 1918: First Battles of the Somme (St. Quentin, Bapaume) the Lys (Messines, Kemmel) Aisne, Second battles of the Somme (Albert, Second Battle of Bapaume)Battles of the Hindenburg Line (Epehy, St. Quentin Canal, Cambrai) and the Final Advance in Picardy (Selle)

The movements of the 1/EYR [11] and 15/DLI [12]are recorded as follows:

7 September: 1/EYR arrived at Sorel le Grand.  15/DLI moved up east of Manancourt.

8 September: 1/EYR rested during the morning.  A message was received that 1/EYR may be placed at the disposal of 62nd Brigade.  15/DLI assembled for an attack on Chapel Hill and 9/KOYLI to attack Lowland Ridge.  1/EYR held in reserve.

9 September: attack made by 15/DLI and 9/KOYLI.  By noon, Chapel Hill was not taken.  At 2.45pm “B” and “C” Companies, 1/EYR were ordered to take up a position as “counter attack reserve.”  Chapel Hill was defended by a redoubt and 15/DLI came under heavy machine gun fire which made further progress impossible for a while.  In the evening the trench was taken but a German counter attack forced 15/DLI to withdraw. By 10.30pm 1/EYR assembled as follows – battalion HQ at position W.15.b.69, “A” and “B” Companies were in the sunken road at W.9.b & d, “C” Company was in trench W.9.b.83 to W.9.b.central and “D” Company was in the road about W.9.d.79.

10 September:  4am, barrage commenced.  “B” Company on the right, “C” Company in the centre and “D” Company on the left.

“At 9.00am – The companies owing to the darkness were unable to go into the exact positions…and had concentrated more to the left when forming up for the attack…unable to start at Zero (5.15am).  The right Coy started at 5.30am.  From verbal reports received it is evident that the attack went in a northerly direction rather than a N.E. one.  The enemy had apparently anticipated a further attack on his position and was fully prepared to meet it.  The right Coy met with very heavy M.G. fire from its right flank and as they had lost the barrage had to withdraw.  From further verbal reports it appears that the left Coy went too much to its left and the enemy counter attacked and apparently captured about 20 of them.”

Later dispositions: “C” Coy on the left; “D” Coy on “C” Coys right; then 9/KOYLI along Lowland trench; “B” Coy 1/EYR then 15/DLI to its right along Cavalry Support Trench with “A” Coy in reserve.

1/EYR casualties:

  • Killed: 1 officer and 5 other ranks
  • Wounded: 2 officers and 36 other ranks
  • Missing: 4 officers and 138 other ranks

At night 15/DLI was relieved.  Casualties were 7 officers and 250 men (dead, wounded and missing). [13]

11 September: 1/EYR rested and re-organised.

Later research records that:

  • 1/EYR lost 54 other ranks killed or died of wounds 10 and 11 September including Private J. W. Bowron.
  • 15/DLI lost 1 officer and 40 other ranks 9 and 10 September.
  • 9/KOYLI lost 2 officers and 22 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds, 9 to 11 September.[14]

Private J.W. Bowron was awarded the British War and Victory medals. [15]

For Ezekiel Harper, a 56 year old widower, a coal miner from Wheatley Hill, County Durham [16] this date would see him lose 3 sons:

  • James Henry aged 32
  • John aged 20
  • Joseph aged 19

They had joined up together into the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the following regimental numbers – John 78821, Henry 78822 and Joseph 78823 then were transferred together into the 1/East Yorks. and given the numbers – Henry 51574, Joseph 51575 and John 51576.[17]  They are all commemorated on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial about 10kms south east of Arras on the road to Cambrai.  This memorial bears the names of 9834 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois between the Somme and Loos and who have no known grave. [18]  Private John Bowron also enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers (regimental number 78868) and was transferred to the 1/East Yorks. Regiment (regimental number 51591) so it is highly likely that he would have known the Harper brothers.


51591 Private J. W. Bowron is buried at grave reference IV.A.14, Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery.  The village lies between Cambrai and Peronne.  The village was attacked by the 38th (Welsh) Division on the 18 September 1918 and retaken by the 21st Division on 8 October 1918.  There are 1295 burials. [19]


[1]  – Finlay family tree (owner sandyfinlay)

[2] ditto

[3] 1881 census

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] See 1

[7] Commonwealth War Graves Commission – details record that JWB died 20 May 1940 aged 21, the son of Bertha Bowron and the late Pte. J.W. Bowron.

[8] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[9] Medal Roll card index.


[11] 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment War Diary 1 – 13 September 1918

[12] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.324 – 325.

[13] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.324 – 325.

[14] Officers & Soldiers and Officers Died in the Great War

[15] Medal Roll card index

[16] 1911 census

[17] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[18] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[19] Commonwealth War Graves Commission


BOWRON J.W. Headstone


2 thoughts on “Bowron J.W.

  1. Pingback: ST.HELEN’S | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Pingback: WEST AUCKLAND | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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