Bowman, Eric Ritchie (Eric)
No. 1500548, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed in an aircraft accident on Wednesday 24 December 1941 (aged 25)
Bangor Cemetery, Newtownards Road, Bangor, Co. Down (Section 4.V. Grave 82)
Bangor and District War Memorial
First Bangor Presbyterian Church
Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI)
Eric Bowman was born on 4 August 1916 and he was a son of Hugh Bowman MBE and Annie Edwards Bowman (nee McAreavey) who were married on 26 December 1912 in Cliftonville Presbyterian Church, Belfast. Hugh Bowman was a son of Alexander Bowman, a corporation officer; Annie McAreavey was a daughter of John McAreavey, a bricklayer.
The Bowman family lived in Belfast before they moved to Bangor where they lived in Casaeldono, 22 Bryansburn Road.
Hugh Bowman was an official in the Ministry of Agriculture and his brother, Robert Ritchie Bowman, was Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Labour.
Hugh and Annie Edwards Bowman (nee McAreavey) had six children:
Helen Hatton (born 28 May 1914 at 30 Balfour Avenue, Belfast; married Desmond Burland)
Eric (born 4 August 1916)
Geoffrey (born 1 June 1919)
Hugh (Flight Sergeant Hugh Bowman who was stationed in Imphal, India with South East Asia Command)
Rosaleen (Petty Officer Rosaleen Bowman, later Mrs Douglas Wood, who served with the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve)
Their father Hugh died in 1965 and their mother Annie died in 1967.
Eric Bowman was educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) from 1929 until 1934. He entered the Civil Service and worked in the Ministry of Agriculture. He enrolled in the RAF before the outbreak of war and held a commission in the Reserve of Officers. He was called up on the outbreak of hostilities and in the 30 December 1939 edition of the County Down Spectator it was reported that he had been seriously injured on Christmas Eve in a flying crash in Scotland. He suffered concussion and multiple injuries and then, with his parents at his bedside, he regained consciousness four days later. At the time, his brother Geoffrey, also in the RAF, was at home on Christmas leave.
As a result of his injuries Eric was passed unfit for flying and, in November 1940, he resigned his commission and returned to civilian life. Then, following the Blitz on Belfast in April 1941, he applied for another medical examination and was passed fit for service. Some eight months later, Sergeant Eric Bowman (No. 1500548) was killed on Christmas Eve (exactly two years to the day after his previous crash) when the Short Stirling aircraft on which he was a crew member crashed in the Bedfordshire countryside while on training manoeuvres. He had been based at RAF Waterbeach, north of Cambridge, and five other RAF personnel were also killed in the crash:
- Pilot Officer Henry Barrymore Rowland (aged 22) Royal Australian Air Force
- Sergeant Gerald Harry Savoy (aged 21) from Bradfield Combust, Suffolk
- Sgt Edward C. Welsh aged 34 from Kingwilliamstown, South Africa
- Sergeant Reginald John Clark aged 21 from Wyke Regis, Weymouth
- Sergeant Vernon Charles Akes (aged 23) Royal Australian Air Force
Three crew members survived the crash and returned to active service – Corporal Jack Mainwaring from Hale, Lancashire; Corporal John William Dawson from Keighley, Yorkshire and Corporal Sam Hawley Atkinson from Wetherby, Yorkshire. All three subsequently lost their lives on active service during 1942.
Sergeant Eric Ritchie Bowman (No. 1500548) was 25 when he died and he was buried on 31 December 1941 in Bangor Cemetery. There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
ALSO HIS BROTHER GEOFFREY
FLYING OFFICER RAF
LOST OVER THE BAY OF BISCAY
21ST MAY 1944 AGE 24
Sergeant Eric Ritchie Bowman (No. 1500548) is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in First Bangor Presbyterian Church and in RBAI.