Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

6th Innsikillng Dragoons


Recommended Posts

Bow on the Menin Gate


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Private William BOW

6th Inniskilling Dragoons attached ‘C’ Squadron, 1st Life Guards (4425)

Killed in action 30th October 1914

William Bow was the older of the two Bow brothers who died in the Great War. They came from a family who sent five sons to serve in the British forces. Walter Bow, William’s younger brother was killed in action in October 1915. Both men were career professional soldiers, members of the original 1914 British Expeditionary Force that was all but destroyed in the battles of 1914-1915.

William Bow was born in Bewdley on the 20th June 1883. He was the son of George and Emma Bow ( nee Preece). George Bow was a charcoal burner and general labourer by trade. In 1891, the family were living at 42 Welch Gate and had six children: James, Edith, John, William, Albert and Beatrice. In 1901 the Bow family live at 10 Welch Gate, and the children have been joined by Walter and Ellen.

William Bow does not appear on the 1901 census returns for Bewdley, as he was serving with the Army in the Second Boer War in South Africa. He joined the Inniskilling Dragoons, a regular cavalry unit based in the Curragh, Queenstown, Ireland. With an operational strength of 23 officers and 558 NCOs and men, as well as 496 horses, the Inniskillings left Ireland on the 23rd October 1899, and arrived in Capetown on November 18th 1899. They formed part of the 1st Cavalry Brigade under General French (who went on to command the BEF in France in 1914). During the conflict, the Inniskillings served in different columns. They took part in the battles of Vaalkop and Colesberg (which they captured February 28th 1900), the occupation of Bloemfontein and the relief of Kimberley on February 14th 1900. They were at the front of the advance on Johannesberg, which they reached on the 1st June 1900, before going on to fight in the Battle of Diamond Hill on June 14th. The Inniskillings went on to the capture of Middlesberg and Barberton, and saw extensive service in the later stages of the Boer war. They returned to Ireland in 1902, arriving back at the Curragh on the 31st October. William Bow’s service in South Africa is alluded to in the Kidderminster Shuttle where he is described as having received ‘the King’s medal with five bars.’

Bow remained a career soldier throughout the years between the Boer and the great wars. He returned to Bewdley to marry his Irish fiancé, Maud Agatha O’Shea on the 21st November 1908, and he became a coal miner in civilian life. The couple’s married home was 20 Pleasant Place, Dog Lane, Bewdley, very close to the Bow family home in Welch Gate. Their daughter Ella was born in 1910, and her sister Doris in 1911.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the troopers of the Household Cavalry were supplemented by men drawn from other cavalry units. Those based at Ludgershall, on Salisbury Plain, left for Belgium on 4th October 1914. 111 men of the 6th Dragoons that went with this detachment, others were of the 6th Dragoon Guards, 7th Dragoon Guards, 1st Dragoon Guards, 3rd Dragoon Guards, 5th Dragoon Guards, 11th Hussars, and 13th Hussars. Of the 1,239 other ranks that went out from England to join the Expeditionary Force, with the Life Guards, 696 were in fact Life Guards, the other 543 being men from the cavalry regiments attached.

‘D’ squadron Life Guards disembarked in Belgium on 8th October 1914, with ‘A’ and ‘C’ squadrons (‘C’ squadron including William Bow) disembarking at Ostend. The regiment moved towards Ypres on the 12th October. They were soon aware of battle raging. This was the First Battle of Ypres, the attempt by the BEF and the French Army to stem the German effort to advance to the channel ports and force a British withdrawal. The German Schlieffen plan had failed after their defeat at the battle of the Marne, and both the rival armies were involved in the so-called ‘Race to the Sea’ as they sought to outflank each other. This battle, still one of open movement, saw the first fighting around the strategic Belgian market town of Ypres, where hundreds of thousands of British soldiers would lose their lives.

The 1st Life Guards were deployed as part of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, part of 3rd Cavalry Division. Advance parties of ‘C’ squadron arrived at Groote Vierstraat at 11pm on the 14th. In the coming days they moved to Poelcappelle to make a reconnaissance, and were billeted in the village of Zonnebeke by the 18th. They had entered the trenches (used, as cavalry units so often were in the Great War, as dismounted infantry) at Zandvoorde, a village situated on a ridge south east of Ypres, by the 24th October. On 27th October 1914, 2 troops of 1st Life Guards and 1 Squadron of 2nd Life Guards were sent to support 22 Infantry Brigade east of Zandvoorde. On the evening of 29th October, these troops were withdrawn to 6 Brigade reserve area at Klien Zillbeke. By this time the front line at Zandvoorde was nearly 9 miles wide, and the defending British troops were thinly spread. The House Cavalry were in badly sited trenches on downward slopes of a grassy knoll before village, just south of the Zandvoorde Tenbrielen Road. This position was in full view of the German trenches. On their left flank was the 1st battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers of 7th Division.

C squadron of the 1st Life Guards was commanded by Captain the Lord Hugh Grosvenor, brother of Duke of Westminster, and his squadron was in trenches just left of the road. Also close by the left road was Machine gun section of Royal Horse Guards commanded by Lord Charles Sackville Pelham Worsley, the Life Guards having one of their guns out of action. [ii] Lord Grosvenor was concerned about his squadron's isolated position and contacted brigade headquarters asking for artillery support. Before this could be done, the Life Guards’ position became part of the wider assault on the right of the entire British line around Ypres. The Germans had a considerable numerical supe­riority, and attacked Ploegsteert Wood, Saint Yves, the Messines Ridge and Zandvoorde at 6am on 30th October 1914. The heavy bom­bardment quickly took its toll, with the Germans using over 260 guns. By eight o’clock the 400 men on the slope of Zandvoorde who had stood to at dawn had been reduced to 320.

The terrible bombardment lasted until 0800, when it was followed up with a ground attack by a mass of Germans using two regiments of the German 39th Division, and 3 ‘Jaeger’ Battalions. These troops attacked the thin line of the Household Cavalry stretched along the Zandvoorde Ridge. It was decided that the Life Guards must be moved back before they were completely overwhelmed, and orders were given to retire to a second line to behind 6 Brigade defences. [iii] By 10 a.m., most of the Household Cavalry in this area retreated in good order; the exception were the two squadrons on the left flank, ‘C’ squadron Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards’ machine­ gun section. The order did not reach these two units, and they could not get out. The German guns had the range of their trenches, and the moment they moved into the open, shrapnel and high explosive caused terrible casualties. Only ten men returned to the comparative safety of the second position, as all their comrades were killed or captured. Many of them were blown to pieces or buried alive, resulting in a large number of soldiers being listed as ‘missing’ after this battle. Many more were killed in the heat of battle by the advancing Germans. [iv]

Given the Germans’ greatly superior numbers, this attack was an inevitable success. The Germans advanced cautiously, but from the Zandvoorde ridge, they were able to fire on the right flank of the 22nd Infantry Brigade (7th Division), obliterating the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers who had been involved in savage fighting themselves.[v] The Germans were victorious, but were shocked by how few British troops were curtailing their advance. The First battle of Ypres consumed what remained of the British regular army composed of career veteran soldiers like William Bow, but they managed to hold a massive German force, buying time for reinforcements from the Empire and from Britain’s territorial units to arrive. [vi]

Trooper William Bow’s death was reported in the Kidderminster Shuttle, and he is commemorated on the Menin gate memorial to the missing on panel 5. [vii]

Lt. Col. J Watkins Yardley With the Inniskilling Dragoons London Longmans1904. ‘Bars’ are attachments to a campaign medal indicating participation by the holder in specific battles or engagements.

[ii] The British units were deployed, from left to right: Squadron 1st Life Guards, Squadron 2nd Life Guards, Machine Guns (Royal Horse Guards), Squadron 1st Life Guards .

[iii] Arthur, Captain Sir George The Story of the Household Cavalry - Volume III London Heinemann 1926


Death of an Army AH Farrar-Hockley Pan (1967) London. Lord Worsley’s body was found by the advancing Germans and buried with full military honours. The former site of his grave is now the location of the Household Cavalry memorial at Zandvoorde. See Spagnoly and Smith, pp.9-14.

[v] ‘One German Jaeger outflanked them and advanced to within 30 yards….276 officers and men were killed. The Jaegers took prisoner the 54 still remaining. None was unwounded.’

David Lomas First Ypres 1914: The Graveyard of the Old Contemptibles Oxford Osprey 1998 p.68

[vi] Spagnoly, Tony and Smith, Ted Cameos of The Western Front: Salient Points Two: Ypres Sector 1914-1918 Leo Cooper Barnesley 1998 p.8

[vii] Kidderminster Shuttle 6th March 1915 p.7, January 8th 1916 p.8

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...