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Archie Bowman. Foot Soldier, German PoW & League Of Nations Man.

Archie Bowman. Foot Soldier, German PoW & League Of Nations Man.

Hamish Ross.
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
At the outbreak of World War One Archie Bowman was a professor of philosophy at Princeton University. Part of a long tradition of Scottish lecturers occupying positions of influence at the famous establishment. Bowman was not a man to sit the war out in his safe, well paid post and 1915 found him uprooting his young family to cross the Atlantic with a view to fighting for his Country.

He found an army struggling to cope with its own rapid expansion and frustratingly found himself kicking his heels for a period before securing a commission in the Highland Light Infantry. His thirst for action was somewhat stymied when he made the age old mistake of displaying an aptitude openly in the Army. In Bowman’s case this was his talent for training men. It would be early 1918 before he got his wish and found himself in France with a service Battalion bound for the front. He was just gaining confidence in himself and his men when he found himself in The turmoil of Ludendorf’s Second Offensive. Bowman found himself and his men rapidly overrun and captured in the Battle of Lys.

Finding himself “in the bag” caused something of an epiphany for Bowman. Separated from his beloved wife Mabel, he threw himself into camp life with great energy. He ran an education program for his fellow inmates, used his skill with languages to mediate with his captors, and even managed to write a book of Sonnets.

Freed upon the declaration of the Armistice, a changed Bowman returned home. He had used his time well and left his cage brimming with confidence, ideas, and plans. Torn between continuing to serve his Country in Russia or returning to Princeton, his devotion to his family eventually overruled his desire to see action again and once more he crossed the Atlantic.

Filled with a restless energy Bowman found himself drawn back to his homeland, and eventually took up a chair at Glasgow University. Here he immersed himself in lecturing on his favourite subjects, moral philosophy and religion. Leading men in the army had developed in him a passion for promoting adult education across all backgrounds. He also found a new cause, that of the League of Nations. To this he devoted himself with such zeal that it would lead to his premature passing in 1936.

The books underlying work is in painting a portrait of a gifted, intellectual man, of principle with a strong desire to see all men live to the strong moral standards to which he held himself. I’m left wondering if our own lofty intelligentsia would show half the courage that Bowman did if ever our Country was to need them in times of total war.

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