Basil Bowyer's Reflections
on his service in the Bucks Hussars in the Great War
Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History
Published in Birch Parish News - November 2007
This unusual article surfaced recently. Basil Bowyer farmed at 'Dukes' in Layer Marney for many years. A bachelor and traditional countryman, churchwarden and buried in the churchyard, it reads as if he wrote this piece close to the end of the first world war, circa 1917-1920, so perhaps 90 years ago. Some passages may sound old-fashioned, but others, such as 'the modern idea of business ... cut throat tactics' ring all too true today. It comes across as an honest and believable account of what was going through his mind at the time and in that time.
We have done a little research into the background, but have not yet found very much of immediate personal relevance. The Bucks Hussars were not a large outfit. Described as 'mounted and dismounted' they went to Gallipoli and Egypt and then fought through Palestine, and were merged with various other units before finally seeing out the war in France as a machine gun battalion. However their time in Palestine saw what is described as the last major wartime cavalry charge, at El Mughar on 13th November 1917 at 2.30pm. It seems probable that the Bucks Hussars took part. Basil Bowyer's aim in writing this piece was not to tell a story but to assess the changes that the war wrought on him as a person, and in his dealings with others. But a story there must be.
Readers may be able to throw more light on this.
Basil Bowyer's Reflections on his service in the Bucks Hussars in the Great War.
How has all this riot of war affected one individually?
I think on the whole for the better: true it has rather added a callousness and coarseness which were not there before, and I am afraid it has rubbed off any shine that was apparent once, either in manner or speech, but I believe it has replaced these with greater attributes.
(On joining the Yeomanry). There came a day when we left our circle of friends and joined a new band of men, men drawn from every condition of life, from town and country, from public schools and from little country schools; with them we lived and fought for three years, seeing each other under every conceivable circumstance.
My friendship for my immediate comrades and the feeling of being beloved by them, is before all else the cause of the last few years having been spent so happily. It has been my good fortune to be placed in a country that I had a great desire to see (Palestine) and among comrades whom none could better.
We have every right to feel proud of our old race: the old spirit of England is not dead, and is being carried on by each one of her children today. Only her old characteristic doggedness and not giving a thought to being beaten combined with daring beyond measure and the old spirit of adventure have pulled us through to the victory which is now ours.
The old life was becoming too artificial. For a long time (in the war) one lived more or less a primitive life and for myself this appeals - the closer one lives with Nature the more it appeals, and the better one feels in one's outlook on life.
Freedom is what we all desire and a pleasure in the daily round of time. War has taught us the blessings of Peace, and a love for those trivial things which were hardly noticed in our rush through life before its cloud broke on us. Now one hates the modern idea of business and the cut throat tactics adopted nowadays and the absence of trust in anybody with whom you are competing.
War time scores in that it serves to make one think well of one's associates, and always look for the gold under the rough surface outside and one's hopes are that the nature of our business in future will allow of the outlook to continue.