HoC - Roll of Honour - Rodney James Bowdidge
Private Stk/339 Rodney James Mansfield Bowdidge
10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (aka The Stockbrokers Battalion)
Rodney James Mansfield Bowdidge was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA in 1895 to James Bowdidge b1866 and Catherine Mary Lydia Mansfield b1866. James and Catherine married in the USA and had two other children born there – Enid Catherine b1899 and Dorothy Lydia b1901.
A ‘J Bowdidge’ appears on the outward passenger list for a ship called the Eburnia travelling from Liverpool to New York on 21.1.1893. James Bowdidge appears in the US Federal Census of 1900 in Chicago but it is unclear when the family returned to the UK. However, at the time of his enlistment Rodney’s address is given as Fleet Street, London. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission record his parents living at 41 Woodstock Road, Bedford Park Chiswick. By 1918 his mother was living at 27 Grove Park Gardens Chiswick and the 1922 electoral roll lists James Bowdidge at the same address. Rodney’s name is listed among the dead in the June edition of St Michael’s Parish Magazine 1918 which suggests that the family’s link with the church had not been a long one.
Rodney Bowdidge was among the early volunteers in the Stockbrokers Battalion, as indicated by the ‘Stk’ alongside his army number. The battalion was raised in August 1914 from city workers who trained at Colchester and Andover before departing for France in July 1915 where they served in the key theatres of action on the Western Front before being disbanded in 1919. Rodney died on the 10th April 1917 and his demise is recorded on the Arras Memorial which commemorates the nearly 35,000 UK, South African and NZ Fallen of that battle who have no known grave.
The Battle of Arras commenced on 1st April 1917 (a rather ironic date on which to commence hostilities) and continued until May 1917. The aim was to attack Arras creating a diversion to allow the French to move their forces north from the River Aisne. The attack on Monchy-le –Preux which claimed Rodney’s life, commenced on April 9th. It snowed overnight so the troops woke at dawn on the 10th to a snowy landscape and a hasty breakfast probably of ‘bully beef’. The attack on Monchy-le-Preux lasted in excess of 24 hours during which time the battalion lost 12 officers and 240 other ranks. Many of the British casualties were sustained as soldiers, advancing under cover of snowfall, were revealed to enemy fire when the snow suddenly stopped. The exact point at which Rodney was killed is unknown but could well have been during this phase.
Attempts to trace a living relative who might be able to supply more information about this soldier have been unsuccessful. Sources in the public domain show Rodney’s sister, Enid married Thomas H Christopherson in 1926 but there appear to be no children of the union. Dorothy, the younger sister married Geoffrey EB Musson in 1930. There seem to have been two children from this marriage - Francis b1936 and Mary b1931. Francis married Arlette Patching (both now possibly dead) in 1962. The may have had a son called Michael but it has not been possible to verify this.
The National Army Museum holds the diary of a soldier called William J Weyman who fought at Arras. Weyman recounts the following story which, while it does not pertain specifically to Rodney Bowdidge does give a flavour of how men maintained morale under horrible circumstances:
‘Eventually everything quietened and we heard someone singing .. our battery comedian , perched on a sandbag wall - we were getting a rendering of the latest popular songs. Every one of us just laughed and laughed. We were all lucky that night, nobody was hit. To avoid being a casualty one had to be in the right place at the right time and in addition, enjoy lots of luck.’
William J Wyman survived the war. 22 year old Pte Stk/339 Rodney James Mansfield Bowdidge, along with so many others, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and sadly, did not.