Aircraftman First Class Herbert Leslie Bowden

When Albert and Nellie Bowden were celebrating the birth of their second son Herbert Leslie in 1920, little did they dream of him winning a medal for courage in the next war.

Albert John Bowden (1886-1971) and Ellen (nee Powlesland 1890-1971)

Born at The Dairy in Sticklepath in 1920, Leslie no doubt started school in Sticklepath before going on to Okehampton Grammar School and then working as a clerk for Messrs Blatchford and Ash, Builders of Okehampton. He was a bright lad who signed up voluntarily in 1941.

Herbert Leslie Bowden, Aircraftman First Class, about 1943

He was made Leading Aircraftman (LAC) when he went to North Africa. The Western Times, 26 Feb 1943, was pleased to announce his medal and the fact that he had requested their newspaper be sent to him wherever he was stationed.

His medal was of course gazetted and you can read a brief and interesting account of his courageous action in the London Gazette 9 Feb 1943.

Unfortunately he was in his beloved newspaper again just 5 years later. The Western Times Friday 10 December 1948 shows:


BOWDEN.—Mr. and Mrs. Bowden, The Dairy. Sticklepath, wish to thank relatives, neighbours and friends who sent messages of sympathy and flowers and who attended the funeral of their son Leslie. They would also like to express their deep appreciation of the many kindnesses shown to him during his illness, and of the attention given to him by the doctor and the staff at Okehampton Hospital.

Sadly his untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of 28 years on 2 Dec 1948, was just 6 weeks before his grandmother Mary Ann also died. Probate for both was awarded to his father Albert and they appear on the same page.

Although a trial of a small batch of streptomycin in 1946 had already shown that 10% of TB patients could be cured, and BCG vaccine was available, neither were generally available. Had he been infected a few years later the story would have been very different. In the 1950s other antibiotics and regimes involving combinations of drugs over a prolonged period were largely successful in treating TB. In 1948 TB was a major killer. Sadly, whilst cases do still occur here, in poorer countries around the world it remains a big problem.

Uncle Albert and Auntie Nellie continued to live at The Dairy in the middle of Sticklepath into their 80s. I can picture them sitting next to their Aga in a lovely warm kitchen.

Albert and Nellie
Tudor Cottage and The Dairy, Sticklepath 1983 (Photo by C.Roger F. Bowden their nephew.)

See also Sticklepath War Memorial 1914-1918 and St Mary’s Roll of Honour

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