James Edgar BOWCOCK

BOWCOCK, James Edgar

Service Number: 1533
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 7th Light Horse Regiment
Born: Wollombi, New South Wales, Australia, 28 December 1896
Home Town: Kincumber South, Gosford Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Fern presser and timber getter
Died: Ruptured duodenal ulcer, Balmain Hospital, New South Wales, Australia, 5 July 1950, aged 53 years
Cemetery: Rookwood Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, New South Wales, Australia
Section M2 Row 15 Plot 4212 Source: Find a Grave. Jack Edwards
Memorials: Kangaroo Valley War Memorial, Kincumber War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

23 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1533, 7th Light Horse Regiment, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '2' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: SS Hawkes Bay embarkation_ship_number: '' public_note: ''
23 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 1533, 7th Light Horse Regiment, SS Hawkes Bay, Sydney

Timber Cutter, Boxer and Soldier

Jim Bowcock’s military service was almost sedentary when compared to his civilian life after the war.

James (Jim) Edgar Bowcock was born at Wollombi, NSW on 25 December 1896, and so was only 18½ years at the time of enlistment. The son of Timothy and Margaret Jane (nee Daly) Bowcock, he was living in the Valley at this time working as a timber cutter and fern presser making about ₤1 a day.

He falsely gave his age as 21 years to the recruitment officer, most likely to avoid having to get his parents’ consent to embark and serve overseas. Jim enlisted firstly with Police Sgt. William Poidevin in Kangaroo Valley on 30 July 1915, with his join-on dated 3 August 1915. He was originally assigned to the 7th Light Horse Regiment.

Jim and eleven other Kangaroo Valley recruits were enthusiastically farewelled by the community in the National Hall in mid-October. Jim gave return thanks to the crowd before a night of singing and dancing into the small hours.

As a member of the Kangaroo Valley All Stars rugby league team he was also farewelled by the football club later that week. Half the team had enlisted on this date and with him that night were Bill Mathers, Fred Wright, Dan Kelly, Phil and Bill Lidbetter, and Tom Scott.

He embarked on the S.S. Hawkes Bay on 23 October 1915 and on arrival in Egypt was re-assigned to the Anzac Provost Police there. Being an MP was not a popular job.

Jim was later transferred to the 1st Light Horse in November 1916 and to the 2nd Light Horse after this time. His tenure and constabulary duties in the military police did not prevent him from having a little overtime himself, going AWOL for a few hours on 7 March 1917 while in Cairo. He was to forfeit 8 days pay for this indiscretion, which the Australians servicemen considered more of a bit of sport rather than a crime.

Jim endured malaria later that year but fortunately managed to see out the remainder of his service without being wounded.

Jim had been a well-known and successful sportsman before enlistment and continued these activities during his war service. While in Egypt in 1917 he was selected as a middleweight to represent Australia against England in the boxing carnival. The hospitalisation for malaria in August 1917 delayed his championship fight for two months, but on recovery Bowcock fought Corporal Hannan and won by knockout in the 4th round. His early transfer into the Provost Police in 1915 makes more sense when you consider this level of boxing prowess.

He returned to Australia on 2 August 1919. Returning also was Jim’s younger brother Bill who had enlisted in August 1915 and served with the 1st Light Horse in the Middle East.

Jim’s father Tim Bowcock was said to have met his son at the Woolloomooloo wharf with two sharpened axes and a timber contract in his hand. To him it was to be “business as usual” when the troopship docked in Sydney, but unfortunately for Tim his son had other ideas.

Jim wasted no time and lodged land applications through the Windsor Land Office in early December 1919 for 100 acre and 300 acre allotments. He subsequently took up a Soldiers Land Settlement on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at a place called the Canoe Lands. He had impressed the Local Lands Committee sufficiently to have their President support Jim’s application with:
…“I beg to recommend that some assistance be given to Bowcock, who is a splendid type of young man and deserves to be assisted.”

Jim had been courting Ruby Ursula North at this time and they married at Balmain in 1921. A daughter, Joyce Jane Bowcock was born the following year.

It is apparent that Jim had good things in mind for his family and accordingly made application to the Colo Shire Council in December 1922 to operate the Wisemans Ferry punt for three years. His tender was more than competitive amongst the six applicants, but Councillors Anderson and McMahon favoured the application of Harry Sheen and awarded the contract accordingly. Missing out on the contract may have been a blessing in disguise, as Sheen was claiming to be unable to operate profitably by 1926.

Boxing wasn’t Jim’s only sporting talent, and he quickly resumed his passion for cricket with the local Wisemans Ferry team. He was often to be written up in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette for his contributions as a genuine all-rounder and made page 12 of the 17 December 1921 edition:
“J. Bowcock and J. Bragg fairly skittled the Coloites.”

From this time onwards until 1928 Jim was to make weekly mention in the paper for his batting and bowling efforts. As an opening bowler he regularly took 5 wickets per game and batted with equal success scoring a century in an October 1926 game.

Amongst other work Jim was now the secretary of the Maroota Community Hall and responsible for the organisation of monthly district social functions. He had some idea of how to guarantee a good roll up at the Maroota Hall dances as the ladies were admitted free.

The local residents turned out in numbers to farewell Jim and Ruby when they took a move to Glenorie in July 1923. The event made mention in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette on 6 July:
“At a social held in the local hall on the 23rd June, Mr. and Mrs. James Bowcock were farewelled by the residents of the district. … Mr Wickham spoke of the esteem in which Mr. and Mrs. Bowcock were held in the district. Mr. Bowcock has taken a keen interest in sport of every kind, and as secretary of the hall has done much good work for the benefit of the institution.”

A war of words began in January 1924 when the Windsor and Richmond Gazette ran an article on Jim Bowcock having held the middleweight championship title of Egypt during the later years of the war. George Cartwright of Enmore took exception to the piece, disputing the claim and declaring Frank Mannix, a trooper of the 6th Light Horse, as the rightful champion. Cartwright was himself a “1915 man” and had trained Mannix. Within three weeks Jim had made a lengthy and somewhat sarcastic reply to Cartwright through the Editor.

Cartwright’s answer was swift and put the challenge back on Jim:
“.. if Bowcock is dinkum in his talk and not a newspaper fighter who likes his name in print. I am still willing to stake up to £100 on Frank Mannix in a contest with Bowcock as soon as he cares to accept. So in conclusion I would advise Mr. Bowcock to stuff up or shut up.”

Jim’s reply was equally fast when on 8 February he accepted the challenge to Cartwright and Mannix:
“… I have a very strong desire to get in that little roped square with Mannix. In conclusion I would inform Mr. Cartwright that I am ready to meet Mannix and sign articles at 35 Enmore Road Enmore [Cartwright’s residence] or anywhere he prefers, this or next week-end.”

As good as life was for Jim misfortune was now to strike, and as the saying goes:
“bad luck comes in threes.”
Firstly, Ruby died on 24 February 1924 at the Craignish Private Hospital Windsor as a result of complications with the premature birth of their second child. Ruby was just 31 years of age. Sadder still, the male child was delivered stillborn. Ruby lies in the Central MacDonald Cemetery with her parents Edward and Mary.

Her family grieved her passing, posting In Memoriam for many years, this appearing on the first anniversary of her death:
No one knows how much we miss you,
No one knows the bitter pain,
We have suffered since you left us,
Home has never been the same,
Our hearts just ache with sadness,
And our eyes shed many a tear,
God alone knows how we miss you,
As it ends the first sad year.

The outpouring of sympathy from the community to both Ruby and Jim was remarkable with a glowing eulogy posted in the local Gazette on 29 February:

“Quite a gloom was cast over the Ferry [Wisemans Ferry] on Sunday last when the sad news came along the death of Mrs J. Bowcock. Only last week (she)… passed through with her mother … and although her immediate friends knew she was on her way to seek medical advice, yet to all outward appearances she looked hale and strong. She was indeed a splendid type of Australian womanhood … a loss which will be felt for a long time. It seems hard to realise that the fine girl, whom we have known for so long, who was never connected with anything petty or of a trivial nature, who never sought the limelight of public approbation, but who did many kindnesses without waiting to be thanked, is no more, and the village is the poorer for it.”

The Gazette also reported on 7 March:
We understand that the boxing contest between Jim Bowcock and Boxer Mannix, which has been arranged to take place at an early date, has been postponed indefinitely, owing to the death of the former’s wife.”

By April Jim was himself fighting for his life in the Prince Alfred Hospital. A coughing fit had ruptured a blood vessel in his lungs causing a massive haemorrhage that had him in such a precarious condition that many did not expect him to live.

Indeed the local Gazette wrote on 2 May:
Mr. James Bowcock, son-in-law of Mr and Mrs Edward North of Webbs Creek is seriously ill. Little hope is entertained for his recovery.”

But within a fortnight the Gazette was reporting an improvement in his health as he:
“… has taken a turn for the better.”

There was to be no more talk or column space on the boxing match with Mannix. No doubt medical advice would have cautioned Jim against taking to the ring again.

In 1925 Jim re-married to a Jessie Irene Armstrong, a pretty 19 year old girl from Kellyville. A son James Timothy was born to them in 1927.

They were sufficiently well off at this time to own a motor car but this contrivance nearly took his life in December 1927. The Windsor and Richmond Gazette dutifully reported the accident near Cattai under the banner:

JAMES EDGAR BOWCOCK, the well known Maroota cricketer who lives at Lower Hawkesbury, near Wisemans Ferry, had a miraculous escape from serious injury on Saturday afternoon last.
At about 1.20pm he was driving a car which he had only just purchased along the road towards Wisemans Ferry. A couple of hundred yards on the Maroota side of the Cattai School of Arts, and about nine miles from Windsor, he met the local mailman (Mr Fred McIver) coming in the opposite direction. They bid each other the time of day as they passed, but Bowcock, thinking that McIver had called out to him a second time, glanced back and simultaneously the car swerved off the road.
Bowcock’s vision was obscured by light rain on the windscreen, and before he could get back on the road the car crashed into a culvert and overturned, and pinned the driver underneath.
McIver and others were quickly on the scene, and after some difficulty they succeeded in extracting Bowcock, who was admitted to Windsor Hospital, suffering from abrasions to the face and injuries to the chest.

Luck was with him on this occasion, but family tragedy was to revisit him when Jessie fell ill on the afternoon of 3 August 1928. She was rushed to the Parramatta Hospital but passed away three days later from the effects of peritonitis that had developed during her labour of their second child. Both were lost. Jessie was just 22 years of age.

Jim left his Soldier Settlement land soon after as he couldn’t make a go of it. The ground was poor and the combined circumstances of falling prices, drought and the 1929 Depression drove many off their land. He also appears to have given up his place in the Maroota Cricket Team.

When Jim’s older brother Bob died suddenly in 1930 Jim disappeared shortly after the funeral that was held at Pennant Hills. He went bush, working at the Craigairlee Angus stud and gold prospecting at Ilford, south of Mudgee in NSW.

His older brother Daniel (Dan) wrote anxiously to the Repatriation Department in 1935 seeking news of Jim as he feared that he may have died in the five years since they had last seen each other at their brother’s funeral. Jim had left his daughter Joyce in the care of Ruby’s sister Mary North living at Wisemans Ferry, and Dan was caring for the young James Timothy at Kincumber.

When Jim was found at the goldfields he had married for a third time to 19 year-old Dorothea May Roberts in 1932 but there were no children. They were living in Lucy Street Ashfield by 1936, Jim working as a motor mechanic. Electoral Roll records then indicate they returned to Craigairlie at Ilford in the 1940’s.

Jim passed away suddenly at Wollombi on 5 July 1950. He had suffered a ruptured duodenal ulcer while working at clearing fields, and died young in Balmain Hospital at 54 years.

James’ uncle Trooper Edward Joseph Bowcock (born Wollombi 1871) had served with distinction during the Boer War as part of the 3rd Queensland Light Horse. He fought in the siege of Elands River Transvaal August 4-16th 1900.
2000-3000 Boer attacked a garrison of 500 Australian (299), Canadian, Rhodesian and British soldiers that were guarding a supply dump. Outnumbered and outgunned the garrison was asked twice to surrender, but refused. The British officer in command Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hore is reputed to have stated:
"I cannot surrender. I am in command of Australians who would cut my throat if I did.”
8 Australians died.
Only 200 of the 1750 horses, mules and bullocks survived so Edward had to walk back to Mafeking. A letter written home after the battle was published in the Singleton Argus on 24 November 1900:
“I like the game well enough only for the humbugs. We only came here as bushmen, not soldiers, Bowcock wrote.

He was referring to the Australian regular army NCOs humbugging or slighting the bushmen in their ranks.

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