Thomas Henry Dowler enlisted in Hertford and was living in Rushden at the time. According to his Medal Index Card (enclosed) he was over in France by February 2nd 1915 and this was just 3 months after his brother Walter was killed.. He was first put into the 4th (reserve ) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment as 4/6256 but was later transferred into the 1st. Battalion, 15th. Brigade, 5th Division.
During 1915 the battalion was involved in action at ‘Neuve Chapelle’ ‘Hill 60’ ‘Ypres’ ‘St. Julien’ ‘Frezenburg’ ‘Bellewaarde’ ‘Aubers’ and ‘Festubert’.
1916 especially over winter, brought a quieter time with the battalion moving down to trenches in the Arras area then in the build up to the Battle of the Somme things were moving and constant shelling was experienced. The Bedfords were called to action during the month of July and the 25-28th proved fatal for many in the area of Longueval.
*Details from ‘The 16th Foot’, The history of the Beds and Herts. Regiment by Major General Sir F. Maurice (1931) and ‘The Somme Day by Day’ by Chris McCarthy.
Thursday July 27th. Temperature 81. F. Hazy, becoming clearer in the afternoon with some rain.
XVCorps, 5th. Division. 15th. Brigade.
15th. Brigade were on the left of 99th. Brigade with 1/Norfolks in front and 1/Bedfords in support, the Norfolks advanced well forward in Delville Wood and the Bedfords carried on the advance linking up with 99th. Brigade. Longueval proved harder and the enemy held on to the northern portion of the village.
The line reached by the 15th. after part of the 16th. Royal Warwicks had been absorbed into the fight, ran S.W. from the N.W. portion of Delville Wood, leaving the orchards near the junction of Duke Street and Piccadilly in the hands of the enemy.
At 9:30 am. the Germans counter- attacked and, at length, got in behind Princes Street and forced the right of the line to fall back a little and face N.E. Sniping and bombing continued throughout the day. That night 17th. Middlesex and 2nd. South Staffs (6th Brigade) took over 99th. Brigade front and 15th. Brigade was relieved by 95th Brigade. During those dreadful three days 9 officers and 303 ‘other ranks’ were casualties.
Sargeant Thomas Dowler’s body was not recovered and his name appears on the Thiepval Memorial (Panel 2C.)
Coincidentally, he died alongside George Hagger of Wallington, William Moody of Sandon and Sydney Bullard of Therfield on the same day in that same action. Thomas was about 23 years old.
May they all rest in peace.