Colonel Thomas Jim Bowen MC (100229)

Appointed Colonel of the Regiment on 21st July 1967.

Thomas Jim Bowen was commissioned into The Worcestershire Regiment in October 1939 and soon acquired the nickname of “Bill” from his fellow officers and Buck” from the soldiers. His military service began as a platoon commander in Eritrea and Abyssinia, but his obvious merit and leadership qualities caused him to be promoted to command a company within only two years of his being commissioned.

Colonel Bowen was awarded an immediate MC when serving with 1st Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment in Eritrea in 1941. The citation recorded that at Barentu on 31st January 1941 a raiding party under the Company Commander had gone out to capture an enemy machine-gun nest leaving 2nd Lieutenant Bowen in charge of the covering party. The raiding party was counter-attacked by enemy light tanks and some 100 men.

Bowen, by quick reorganisation and leadership, not only broke up the counter-attack but also forced covering Armoured Fighting Vehicles to retire. The next day he was sent in charge of a composite platoon to capture some enemy machine-gun nests. The action was carried out with complete success owing to his leadership and disregard of personal danger.

During an enemy counter-attack he personally advanced under heavy fire with Corporal Smith to bring Corporal Miller, who had been severely wounded, back to a place of safety. “The conduct of this young officer throughout the three day operation,” his citation stated, “was an inspiration to his men both through his disregard of danger and his outstanding leadership.”

Colonel T. J. Bowen

Colonel T. J. Bowen

In June 1942 at Point 187 he was taken prisoner and sent to Italy. While on the journey to an unknown destination he lifted a floor-board in the cattle truck in which 30 men were being transported. When the train stopped between Florence and Bologna, Bowen slipped through the hole in the floor followed by a companion, and dropped on to the track. Each man was hit by the water tanks slung under the last truck but the blows, though painful, were not lethal. They moved away from the track and eventually found a small farm where they were given food, a map, a small bottle of brandy and some money. On the road the peasants all realised the pair were British but a German staff car failed to recognise them.

Various people helped them, including an Italian woman who provided dinner for them in a stable. Although the table and chairs were trusses of straw, the meal was served on fine linen with cut glass and silver. They moved around, hoping to reach Switzerland, or link up with Allied forces, but the going was hard, particularly in the winter, and they often had to evade German forces. Eventually, however, they were betrayed by someone apparently friendly and recaptured. He was then transferred to Germany but managed to escape from Eichstatt, in Bavaria, in April 1945.

During the next nine years he held a number of appointments in the 1st Battalion in Germany, Trieste, Pola, Luneburg and Berlin during the blockade. In 1949 he graduated from the Staff College, Camberley, and was then GSO3 (Training) HO 43 Infantry Division, TA before rejoining the 1st Battalion at Ipoh, Malaya, where he was Adjutant for two years, during one of the worst periods of the “Emergency”.

In June 1954 he was selected to be Military Assistant to the C-in-C Germany, General Sir Richard Gale, who was also Colonel of the Regiment. In 1957 he became a student at the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich, after which he rejoined the 1st Worcesters in Jamaica as OC A Coy, which was involved in various operational moves to British Honduras and the Bahamas. He also commanded C Coy in British Guiana before returning to the Regiment in Jamaica, as second-in-command.

In February 1960, he was promoted and seconded to command the Trucial Oman Scouts. This was followed by command of the Muscat Regiment in 1961-62, which involved operations in Central Oman. His next posting was as Deputy Commandant Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot.

In 1965 Colonel Bowen was appointed Commander of the Federal Guard in South Arabia, with the task of reorganising the force as four infantry battalions, in order to combat the Egyptian-inspired insurgency in Aden and the Federation. As well as organising and training, the post involved continuous operational commitments working in conjunction with the British Forces and the Federal Regular Army. He was wounded in a grenade incident in Aden in March 1967. After commanding the Federal Guard he returned to Britain and retired in 1967. Of his 28 years with the Regiment, six had been served in England, while the rest had been spent overseas.

He was appointed Colonel of the Worcestershire Regiment in July 1967, and on the amalgamation of the Worcesters with the Sherwood Foresters became Deputy Colonel to Brigadier James Hackett, whom he succeeded as Colonel of the Regiment in 1972.

After his retirement, he became the Steward of Worcester Cathedral from 1970 to 1982 and in 1980 he was appointed High Sheriff of Hereford and Worcester. He married, in 1950, his cousin Anne Bowen. They had two sons and a daughter. Major Ed Bowen also served in the Regiment.