Tributes paid to ‘most affable’ war veteran

Sergeant Clarence Bowker Sergeant Clarence Bowker

Monday, January 20, 2014
1:00 PM

Tributes have been paid to a popular Sidmouth resident, war veteran and ‘one of the most affable people you could wish to meet’, whose funeral is being held today (Friday).

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Clarence 'Larry' Bowker in 2010Clarence 'Larry' Bowker in 2010

Clarence Bowker, known as Larry, made many friends in his 13 years in Sidmouth, during which time he was a regular at St Peter’s Church and the memory café.

He always had time to stop and chat, particularly about his love of sport, although it was only in his later years he spoke of his experiences during the war.

A sergeant in the RAF, he served in Bomber Command No.138 Squadron during the Second World War as an air gunner.

Initially a fighter-reconnaissance unit during World War One, the squadron was reformed in August 1941 to undertake ‘special duties’ after the formation of the Special Operations Executive - an organisation whose function was to promote sabotage against the enemy.

The agents, ammunition and equipment to achieve this were dropped inside enemy territory, the first being flown by Lysanders, then with Halifaxes and later with Stirlings.

Missions were often under cover of dark and involved low level flights. Airborne from Tempsford on the night of August 31, 1944, Sgt Bowker’s plane was shot down at Gilze en Rijen.

He was the only survivor of the crash; the other seven members of his crew were killed, and are buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Gilze en Rijen.

Sgt Bowker was found lying on the ground with head injuries and burns to his legs. He was picked up by a German soldier and was taken to a nearby field hospital.

He was transferred to Stalag Luft 7 at Bankau, Poland, where he remained until liberation.

Larry married Patricia (Pat) in June 1947 and was then de-mobbed in the same year. He spent some years working as a bus conductor in Kinston-upon-Thames and re-enlisted in the RAF in 1961.

He left the service after 16 years. Following the death of Pat in 1981, Larry moved to Basingstoke to be closer to his family.

Larry moved to Sidmouth with his stepdaughter, Barbara, in 2000 where he lived until June 2013, when he moved to Thornfield Nursing Home in Seaton.

After a short illness he died at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on Christmas Day, aged 89.

His family would like to thank all those who cared for him during his stay at Thornfield and the hospital.

His funeral will be at St Peter’s Church at 2.30pm today.

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