Bowerman, Private William 12341 of 1/East Surrey Regiment

From the file WO71-556 Held at TNA


3rd March 1917

No. 12341 Private W. Bowerman

1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment




At* IN THE FIELD this first day of October, 1916

Whereas it appears to me, the undersigned, an officer in Command of 95th Infantry Brigade on active service, that the persons named in the annexed Schedule, and being subject to Military Law, have committed the offences in the said schedule mentioned.

And I am of opinion that it is not practicable that such offences should be tried by an ordinary General Court Martial:

I hereby convene a Field General Court Martial to try the said persons and to consist of the Officers hereunder named.


Lieut. Colonel J. Ferguson R.F.A


Captain T.M Allison 12th Gloucs. Regt.

Lieut G.F Carter R.A.M.C

2/Lieut. R.F.H Molder 1st Bn. E Surrey Regt.

(Signed) Harold Fargus Lieut. Colonel

Commanding 95th Infantry Brigade




1st Witness

No. 9202 L/Cpl F. Hipgrave 1st East Surrey Regiment duly sworn states:

I am one of the Regimental Police. About 12 midday on 2nd February 1917, acting on instructions I took the accused from Battalion Headquarters, where he was under arrest to Company Headquarters. This was in the support line left of the La Basse canal. I handed him over to Sgt. Young who was acting C.S.M. I told Sgt. Young in the presence of the accused that he was for duty in the trenches. I then left the support line and returned to Battalion Headquarters.

Not Cross-Examined by the Accused.

2nd Witness

No. 10543 Sgt. A. Young 1st East Surrey Regiment duly sworn states:

On the morning of the 2nd February 1917 I was acting Sergeant Major to No.2 Company which was at that time in the front line to the left Givenchy sub sector. The accused was handed over to me by L/Cpl Hipgrave of the Regimental Police at the Company H.Q in the support line around midday. At about 2pm I sent the accused to his platoon under L/Cpl Burnage for duty in the trenches. At 3.30pm I received a report from Sergt. Bryant who was in charge of the accused’s Platoon. I searched the support line but could not find find the accused. I then made a report to the Regimental Sergt. Major. I didn’t see the accused again until about 13th February at Battalion Headquarters.

Not cross-examined by the Accused.

3rd Witness

No. 31170 L/Sgt. P. Bryant 1st East Surrey Regiment duly sworn states:

On the 2nd February 1917 at about 2pm the accused was brought to me under escort and handed over to me for duty with my platoon. We were then occupying a position to the left of the Canal. At about 3pm I wanted the accused for a fatigue. I sent one of my section commanders to warn him. He returned and made a statement. I searched the whole of the section myself and could not find the accused. I then reported to my Company Sergeant Major, Sergeant Young. I did not see the accused again until some days later at the Battalion Headquarters.

Not cross-examined by the Accused.

4th Witness

No. P/4507 L/Cpl W. Turnbull M.F.P duly sworn states:

On the 3rd February 1917 about 6pm I was on Military Police patrol duty in the Boulevard Daunou, Boulogne. I saw the accused and stopped him and questioned him. I arrested him and took him to the Military Police Guard Detention Room where he was detained.

Not cross-examined by the Accused.

5th Witness

No. 76933 L/Cpl D. Jenkins M.F.P duly sworn states:

On the 3rd February 1917 at about 6pm I was on Military Police patrol duty in company with L/Cpl Turnbull in Boulevard Daunou, Boulogne. We stopped and questioned the accused, whom I now identify, We arrested him and conducted him to the Police Guard Detention Room, where he was detained.

Not cross-examined by the Accused.

6th Witness

No. 32445 Cpl. W.A Morton 1st East Surrey Regiment duly sworn states:

On February 7th I received the accused into custody at the Punishment Barracks, Boulogne from the Sergeant of the Military Police at about 2pm. I brought him back to Battalion Headquarters and handed him over to the Provost Sergeant at about 2pm on February 8th 1917.

Not cross-examined by the Accused.

Cross-examined by the Court.

The accused was in uniform when handed over to me.

Case for the Prosecution Closed.


The accused elects to make a statement not on oath and states:

I left the trenches because I was sent up without any dinner. I was kept in Sergt. Young’s dugout for 1 1/2 hours. When I got to the Platoon there was nothing there for me and I was not in a fit state as regards clothing to go in to the trenches. The back of my foot was all out. I had to cut it on account of a bad heel because I could not get my boot on at the time. I only had a thin undervest on which I had not had changed for about five weeks. It was verminous. I had a thin jacket which was torn in the sleeves and torn under the armpits. It would keep out no cold whatsoever. I had no leather coat, nor an overcoat. That was the state in which I was taken to the trenches and that is the reason why I came away. 

I was not in the trenches half an hour when I was handed over. I asked one of the men where I could get a drink of water. He said I should have to go down to the village so I went down to the village and a fit came into my head and I went right off. I was in Bethune at 3.30 the same afternoon. I met some Canadian Artillerymen, two of whom I had met in Canada. I stayed with them and they were both going on leave. We got arguing the point and I got into the train with them and I went as far as Boulogne with them. I had no intention of trying to get away whatever.

The accused declines to call any witnesses or to make any further statement.



2/Lt. S.F Swain 1st East Surrey Regiment now states:

I produce certified true copy of AFB/122 for the accused (signed by the President and attached to the proceedings)

Not cross-examined.

The accused declines to call any witnesses to character or to make any statement in mitigation.


(Signed) Lieut. Colonel J. Ferguson R.F.A

President FGCM


12.2.16 Misconduct  7 days F.P No.2

24.2.16 Misconduct  7 days F.P No.2

1.3.16 Insurbordinate language to a superior Officer  56 days F.P No.1

17.5.16 and 26.5.16 1. Drunkeness 2. Resisting an escort 3. When in confinement escaping 4. When on Active Service, drunkeness.  6 months hard labour commuted by GOC Army to 3 months F.P No.1

5.6.16 Misconduct  28 days F.P No. 2

23.6.16 Overstaying Pass.  Forfeit 10 days pay.

24.6.16 Absence.  Forfeit 20 days pay.

Rouen 18.9.16 When on Active Service, absent from 8.15am 18th until apprehended by the 2nd I.B.D Police at 7pm on the 24th.  Forfeit 15 days pay and confined to camp for 7 days.

In the Field 1.10.16 When on Active Service 1. Breaking out of camp about 7am when in open arrest and remaining absent until apprehended in the E.F Canteen about 12.30pm 2. Losing by neglect Government property. Forfeit of 5 days pay.

In the Field 5.11.16 When on Active Service 1. Absent from C.O’s Inspection Parade at 11.45am 2. Breaking out of camp about 10am 3. When a prisoner in the Guard Tent “Escaping”  14 days F.P No.2

In the Field 11.11.16 Absent from Company parade 3am when proceeding to trenches and remaining absent until about 8.30am 13.11.16  28 Days F.P No.2

In the Field 28.12.16 When on Active Service, Deserting His Majesty’s Service  5 Years Penal Servitude Commuted to 2 years hard labour. (H.Horne Commanding 1/Army)


3rd March 1917

Name of alleged Offender:

No. 12341 Private W. Bowerman

Offence Charged:



Not Guilty

Finding, and if Convicted, Sentence:

Guilty, DEATH


To 95th Infantry Brigade

This man’s character is very bad. Whilst with the Battalion he has caused countless trouble, being often insurbodinate and on several occasions leaving the Battalion often in or going into the trenches.

On these occasions, as also in the case of his previous crimes I consider that he did it deliberately with the object of avoiding duty in the trenches.

(Signed) E.M Woulfe-Flanagan D.S.O Lt. Col

Commanding 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment


To 5th Division

In accordance with pamphlet S.S 4/2 Part III, I have to report as follows in the case of the undermentioned man.

No.12341 Pte. Bowerman 1st East Surrey’s

Very bad character and no good as a fighting man. He has been with the Expeditionary Force since 8/4/16.

State of discipline of the battalion is very good.


I feel the extreme penalty should be inflicted because:

The man has already deserted once on Active Service

He has no intention of fighting for his country

Is quite worthless as a soldier in any other capacity and is better removed from this world.

(Signed) Harold Fargus Lieut-Colonel

Commanding 95th infantry Brigade


To Headquarters XI Corps

This man is a very bad character and useless as a soldier. This is his second offence for desertion. I can see no reason why the death sentence should not be carried out.

(Signed) R.B Stephens Major-General

Commanding 5th Division


To 1st Army

I recommend that the sentence of death be put into execution. This is the second time the man has been found guilty of desertion.

(Signed) Richard Haking Lt. Gen

Commanding XI Corps


To Adjutant General

General Headquarters

I recommend that the sentence be carried out.

Byng Lt. General

Commanding First Army.


(Signed) D.Haig Field Marshal

18 March 1917


To Headquarters 1st Army

Proceedings of Field General court martial in the case of No. 1231 [sic] Pte. W. Bowerman, 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment.

The sentence was carried out at 5.41am on the 24th March undereath the Southern Face of Fosse No.4 de Ferfay. Death was Instantaneous.

(Signed) G.F Farmer Brig-General

For Lieutenant-General Commanding Canadian Corps.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s