Dover Express - Friday 15 May 1925
DUKE OF YORK'S SCHOOL BOY KILLED. FATAL CLIFF FALL.
On Thursday afternoon, at 4.30, one of the boys of the Duke of York's School, James Herbert John Bowman, aged 12 years, of "G" Company, was killed by falling over the cliff at Fan Hole. The boy belongs to Hounslow; his father was in the Royal West Kent Regiment, and was killed in the war.
The Borough Coroner (Mr. E. T. Lambert) held an inquest on the body at the Town Hall on Friday afternoon. Lieut.-Colonel Thomas, Adjutant of the Duke of York's School, identified the body. The deceased was admitted to the School last October, and he was twelve years of age this month. His home address was 142, Standard Rd., Hounslow, and his father, who was deceased, was a soldier of the Royal West Kent Regiment. His name was Corpl. John Bowman. Witness last saw the deceased alive just after two o'clock the previous afternoon going out with other boys. His Company were having a holiday. He was reported to have fallen over the cliff to witness at five o'clock on Thursday evening. While assistance was being obtained, witness received information that a body was being conveyed on a stretcher to the Dockyard. Accompanied by Major Roberts, the Medical Officer of the School, they proceeded by car to the Dockyard, and there identified the body.
Boy Richard Banks, of the Duke of York's School, said he knew the deceased boy. He went out with him at 2 o'clock on Thursday with other boys. They went straight across the Downs, passed on the left of the Aerodrome, until they came to the cliff. The deceased noticed a seagull's nest about 20ft. down the cliff, and started to climb down towards it. This was at about 2.20. When he was about 2yds. from the nest, witness asked Debney, one of the other boys, the time and when he looked round again he could not see the deceased. The cliff was not "too" steep just there. Witness did not know how the deceased fell, and he had not seemed to be in any difficulty. He could have got to the nest, but it was a bit dangerous. After they had gone to the old Coastguard Station and made enquiries at a house, they tried to get down the path by the house, but they could not get the whole way down because of barbed wire. They met a man who tried, but he could not get past it. They saw a man on the beach, and shouted to him, but he could not see anyone. He went towards the Dockyard to tell the police. The lady at the house said she would telephone to the School and the Dockyard, and shortly afterwards they noticed some men on the beach and watched them search for the deceased until they found him. They saw them put him on a stretcher and carry him to the dockyard. The deceased was a strong and active boy. Witness saw no marks on the cliff as if the deceased's foot had slipped.
Boy Robert Debney, of the Duke of York's School, said he had heard the evidence given by the previous witness. He was with the previous witness the whole time and saw deceased start to climb down the cliff. Witness considered it fairly safe - it looked all right from where they were. When the deceased got near the nest witness got his watch out, as the others had asked him the time. When he looked up the deceased had disappeared. It was about 2.30. He, with the others, tried to find where deceased was, and saw the men find him. Witness did not notice any marks as if deceased's foot had slipped.
Albert Sharp, a cook of the s.s. "Langdon," said he was on the beach between 4.30 and 5 o'clock about a quarter of a mile to the east of the Eastern Arm. He was getting some winkles and he heard the boys calling to him from the top of the cliff. They asked him if he had seen a boy, and he began to see if he could see anyone. He told the boys to report to the School and he would inform the police at the Dockyard. He did so, and the beach was searched by men from the "Langdon." Witness found the body after about ten minutes' searching. It was lying across the rocks, jammed between three rocks. The face, left wrist and left leg were injured. The cliff was very high at this point. Deceased was quite dead when he found him.
Police-Sergt. Booth said that at 5.15 p.m. on Thursday, in response to a telephone message from the Dockyard at East Cliff, in company with a constable, he took the ambulance and went to the beach at Langdon Gap, where they met the last witness, who was carrying the body on an improvised stretcher. Witness examined the body and found extensive injuries both to the head and body. They conveyed the body to the mortuary, where it was examined by the medical officer of the of the Duke of York's School. The cliff at the point was between 150 and 200 feet high.
Major Frederick Roberts, medical officer of the Duke of York's School, said that at about 5.40 p.m. he was informed of the occurrence. He went to the Dockyard and examined the body. He found life extinct. The body was examined at the Mortuary, and he found a lacerated wound 2½ inches long above the right eye. The skull was fractured in this region. The left collar bone was broken and the seventh rib on the left side fractured. The bones of the right leg were fractured above the ankle joint, and there were bruises and abrasions all over the left side. Death was due to shock and concussion, and was instantaneous.
The Coroner returned a verdict of "death from misadventure."
The funeral took place at Hounslow on Monday, the previous arrangements that the burial should take place at Guston being altered at the request of the boy's mother. The body remained in the military chapel at the Duke of York's School during Saturday, and was taken to Hounslow by motor hearse. The arrangements locally were carried out by Messrs. Venner and Son, of High St., Dover.