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imageThomas Dowbekin was born in Bolton, Lancs on 23rd November 1893. He was the eldest son of Thomas Dowbekin Snr a cotton mill machine maker and his wife Emma Lavinia nee Jones. They had eight children in total. His first home was at No. 25 Princess St, Bolton long since demolished.

In 1911 the family had removed to No. 34 Cope Bank, Smithills, Bolton away from the town centre, the eldest now working in various capacities in the local cotton mills. Thomas worked as a piecer in Musgrave’s No 8 Mill in nearby Bute Street. By the outbreak of WWI the family had moved to No 3 Shipton Street Bolton, a gable end terraced home, both of these houses still survive today.

There are no surviving service papers for Thomas, who, according to the Bolton Evening News of Friday 14th May 1915 had enlisted the day previously and became Pte 4857/242139 of the 1/5th Bn Loyal North Lancs Regt.

His MIC for the BWM & VM does not state the date of entry into France but an entry in the Bolton Journal of November 1917 says he has been at the front for two years and been in action at the Somme, Ypres and Cambrai.

It was during the battle for Menin Road on 20th September 1917 the battalion was part of the 166th Bde,55th West Lancashire Division and were supporting 165 Bde for the attack set for 5.40am south east of St Julien. The initial attacks were repulsed by rifle fire and strong machine gun positions. The reserve battalions were sent in a few hours later to carry forward the attack towards Hill 37. It was during this phase of the attack that the 1/5th Loyals were utilised and it was this day that Cpl Dowbekin won and earned the Military Medal.

In a paragraph from the Bolton Journal of 3rd January 1919 during an attack by the Loyals, Thomas captured an enemy Machine Gun, having done so he immediately turned the machine gun onto the enemy, allowing the attack to continue.

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On 30th November 1917 Thomas finds himself engaged in the Battle of Cambrai where the Loyals were holding the line in the Honnecourt sector. During their withdrawal due to the advance of overwhelming enemy forces in the german counter attacks, Thomas was captured near Epehy and according to the War Diary of this date 18 Officers and 384 O.R’s were listed as missing that day.

In the records of the International Red Cross, indexes compiled in Geneva, Thomas is shown as a P.O.W. on 15th January 1918 No 47 in the roll being kept in Munster and shown as a member of ‘B’ Company 1/5 LNL. His date of birth shown as 23.11.1894 (sic), local records show it was the year before.

A month later he was transferred on 18th February 1918 as P.O.W. No 35 at Altdamm camp in Pomerania, modern day Poland. He is now shown as ‘C’ Company and his next of kin as his mother Emma at the Shipton St address.

He remains in captivity for the rest of the conflict and is released 12 months later when he returns home. His Military Medal was presented to him by Lord Leverhulme as mayor, who also gave a rousing speech at a presentation held for the troops returning from Germany, in the mayor’s dining room of Bolton Town Hall in December 1918.

His name was entered onto the Roll of Honour of Ridgeway Endowed School, Bolton, the school or the roll no longer exist.

He died aged 62 years in Bolton on 27th December 1955 and was cremated three days later.

The MM together with his WW1 pair are in the medal collection of the author.

Garry Farmer
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Garry Farmer

Garry's grandfather and great uncles served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during WWI, 2 Gt uncles were KIA at Ypres and Mesopotamia. A regular worldwide battlefield visitor and exhibitor at the OMRS Convention he spent 36 years as a civil and RAF policeman and served on operations in Bosnia, Cyprus, Kenya, North, Central and South America.
Garry Farmer
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