Leslie Bowler - On gun duty the night Strathallan was torpedoed.
My Father Leslie Bowler was born on.1st July.1923 the eldest of two sons in Lewisham London to Tom & Mable Bowler known as Dick, the reason for this nickname was because her Father was a Horse dealer and as his Father before him and nicknamed all his children after his Horses. As a lad he helped his Grandfather running chores at his Stables.
At the tender age of 16 he saw the outbreak of war…..Doing his bit for the national cause he joined the Merchant Navy. As fate would have it he signed articles on the SS Strathallan a requisitioned Troopship which was torpedoed 21st December 1942…..which brought him into The Strathallan Story 69 years later. My Father often talked about his time serving on the Strathallan he never complained about how difficult the conditions were he just accepted it as part of his duty.
He was one of the crew who manned the guns he was on duty the night the ship was torpedoed his story to me was he was manning the guns the night the ship was hit and being one of the crew had to help the passengers off the ship to safety. He said they had to stay on board to assist, there were others still left behind so he went down to bar and decided to open it to give the people still waiting to be rescued a little something to help ease the fear i’m sure they were all feeling he said he lost all of his belongings that night.
A tale he often told was a friend another of the crew (his name escapes me) had a bag he would not leave behind on the ship, my father and the rest of the crew told him to jump off the ship and leave it as the ship was going to sink but he just would not leave my father and the other crew eventually left the ship for safety but this one crew member would not leave without this bag, so as the others waited in the rescue boat they told him to throw the bag overboard and someone would catch it but unfortunately when he threw the bag and he jumped off the ship it missed the boat and went into the sea.
My father said this poor man just sobbed, what was in the bag I do not know but it obviously meant a lot to this seaman, it must still be at the bottom of the sea, but at least he managed to jump to safety.
After the torpedoed Troopship Leslie was re-assigned to several ships in his 13 years sea career. In 1953…. he married Irene Codrington Along came Carol their only child…..Leslie took up shore employment in Advertising with Wace based in London he was with them until his final retirement at the age of 78. He was well known in the Advertising world and help many apprentices in his time.
He worked full time until he was 67 he then he worked three days a week until he was 70 then just one day. It was at that time he and my Mother moved from Essex to Carlton Colvile nr Lowestoft by the sea he then spent more time playing Golf the the game he loved it was part of his job arranging Golf days for the company.
They stayed in Carlton Colville for about 6 years then they moved a few miles up the road to Beccles his final home. It was just after his retirement my father found he had a Melanoma on his head which was successfully removed. But a year later he started to get breathless, one night it was so bad my mother had to call an Ambulance, was rushed to the local hospital where they diagnosed he had suffered a mild heart attack but whilst he was in the hospital he suffered a cardiac arrest but being in the right place the Doctors managed to save him.
After his heart attack he never played Golf again the second one left him with heart failure making it difficult for him to walk too far. He went on to live for another 6 years caring for my Mother when she had a minor stroke. Leslie loved to hear the stories from the Strathallan Web Site and often remarked to his daughter Carol Craven how he should write his story and send in for publication but sadly it was not to be as he passed away on 15th March 2009.