Memories of Pte John Bowery of Ushaw Moor, Durham and the 16th Battalion DLI, as related by his son:

'My father joined up in Brancepeth Camp near Durham City in early 1941. His number was 4468625. Then known as the 70th Young Soldiers' Battalion, he performed guard duty at Croft airfield, Middleton St George, near Catterick. He was then sent to Battle School where he trained with live rounds.

'Sgt Prestwick was killed in an accident there and is buried in Barnard Castle Cemetery. Then considered to be battle-trained. He sailed from Greenock and landed at Benghazi.

'He spent 21st birthday looking at the village of Castle Forte. Dad was involved in Major Hay's first patrol [Major Hay joined Lt Frank Duffy's D Company in late 1943. He later commanded A Company].

'Pulled out of line and sent to Middle East, (Syria, Tel Aviv, Lebanon and Palestine). The 16th Battalion was attached to the US 5th Army. The Oak Tree was his shoulder flash.

'He was wounded on 10th September 1944 at Gemmano in the province of San Marino. This was considered to be neutral but the Germans were there and his he and his comrades were tasked with getting them put. In this engagement Corporal Pauly (London) was wounded, probably fatally as were Privates Steele and Shadbolt, among others.

'Pte Shadbolt had both amazing luck and tragic ill fortune within a few days. He was out of position and in the difficult visibility he was accidentally shot by my father, who reckoned him to be a Jerry. Amazingly he was saved by his gas cape canister and his biscuit tin. Uninjured, he shouted out some expletives and seemed to be more concerned by the fact that his biscuits were now reduced to powder! Days later he realised that he had left a telescopic sight or binoculars (Dad forgets which) somewhere and he began to go back for them. A few men remonstrated, advising him to leave them. He did not and was walking away from the group to the rear and only a matter of meters away when he was hit by a mortar and killed. They suffered heavy casualties and were brought out by Sgt Lewindon. Out of 70 committed, perhaps there were 17 left. He was sent back to the 69th Hospital at Naples.

'1944 switched to 1st Battalion DLI, Northern Italy.

'When the war finished, he went to Austria. He proudly reminds me that he was right hand sentry when the British were in the Chair. He turned out the guard for General Mark Clark (USA) Generals Bethoud, (France) Koniev (Russia) and General McCreery (Britain).'


Pte John Bowery, D Company, 16 DLI, 1943-45
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