Harrogate's band of ten brothers who went off to fight in the First World War

A photographic round-up of the whole Bowser family appeared in the Harrogate Herald in 1916.
A photographic round-up of the whole Bowser family appeared in the Harrogate Herald in 1916.

One Harrogate family saw ten brothers serving their king and country in the First World War. But, not all of them lived to tell the tale.

On August 23, 1916, as part of its weekly photographic record featuring local men who had gone off to fight, the Harrogate Herald published pictures of Richard Bowser and his wife

Jeanne Louise, and their 10 sons Albert, George, Tom, Fred, Richard, Percy, Ernest, John ‘Denis’, Frank and Henry Simpson, or ‘HS’ to his family.

Accompanying the photographs the newspaper wrote: “We congratulate Mr and Mrs Bowser, of The Avenue, Starbeck, on the rare distinction of having ten sons serving the colours, which will doubtless constitute a record for the district, if not the Empire.”

However, its editorial finished on a sombre note, adding: “We regret to announce that one has recently fallen in action.”

Before the war was over two more of the Bowser brothers would join the long list of British troops who never saw their homes and families again.

The Bowser family lived on The Avenue, but by the time war broke out the brothers, whose ages ranged from 17 to 35, were scattered all over the world.

Several were working in Yorkshire but Henry had emigrated to Canada and Frank was living in Australia.

Nevertheless, by the end of 1915 all the Bowser brothers had enlisted, although because they were living in far flung places it meant they ended up in different regiments.

Albert joined the West Yorkshire Regiment, while Richard, the eldest, was placed on munitions work at a shell-filling factory.

George, a former caddy master at Starbeck Golf course, was a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery and Tom took to the air as part of the Royal Naval Flying Corps.

Percy served with the 8th Royal Fusiliers, a London Regiment, and was later awarded the Military Medal for bravery in battle.

In October 1918, just weeks before the war ended, he was awarded the Silver War badge which was given to those forced to leave military service due to wounds, sickness or old age.

Henry Bowser served with the Canadian Engineers having moved to North America in 1911. However, the odds were against all ten brothers surviving the war unscathed and sadly three of them did not make it.

Little is known about Frank, a corporal with the Australians, other than the fact he was killed in 1916. Fred, the youngest, worked as a clerk in a goods warehouse in Starbeck before the war.

He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in Harrogate and trained in the North East before being sent to France. He died on November 11, 1916 and is among those buried in the British cemetery at Saulty, south west of Arras. He was just 19 years old.

Ernest, a sapper with the Royal Engineers, took part in the British campaign in Salonika, in Greece, where they helped the Serbs in their fight against Bulgarian aggression. But sadly he was killed in the First Battle of Doiran in April 1917.

Today, the names of Fred, Frank and Ernest Bowser are among the 100 that adorn the Starbeck war memorial, a tribute to those killed during the Great War.