Eastbourne Gazette - Wednesday 04 September 1940
HOME GUARD KILLED BY SHOT FROM OWN RIFLE.
An Eastbourne Home Guard volunteer was accidentally killed by a bullet from his own rifle when he was coming off duty early on Monday morning. The dead man was Sydney Eustace Bowyer, aged 61, a house agent's clerk, of Belmore-road. Bowyer had said good-bye to Home Guard comrades who went off duty with him at 8 am. on Monday, and soon afterwards he was found lying near a gate leading from the grounds in St Anne's-road, where the post at which he had been on duty is situated.
At the inquest at the Town Hall yesterday the Coroner (Dr E. F. Hoare), returning a verdict of "Accidental death," said he was impressed by medical evidence that Bowyer could not have fired the rifle himself, and by the fact that there was not the slightest trace of his having any worries. Indeed, he had joined the Home Guard instead of sitting at home worrying about the war.
Raymond Oliver, house surgeon at the Princess Alice Hospital, said Bowyer had a bullet wound in the chest.
The Coroner: Are you able to form any opinion as to whether it could have been fired by the man himself?
Not without a stick or wire. By himself I do not think he could have fired it.
Edgar Worrall, of St Anne's-road, section leader in the Home Guard, said that his home was next to the place where Bowyer was on duty. At 6.7 am. he reached home after being on duty with Bowyer and two other men, when he heard a shot. He went out and heard groaning. Looking towards the grounds of the adjoining house when they had been on duty, he saw Bowyer on the ground, lying on his side with his rifle under him.
Ernest Alfred Barker, Home Guard corporal, of Ocklynge-parade, said Bowyer was on duty under him. When going on duty, Bowyer asked him to have a look at his rifle as he thought it was jammed. There were three rounds in the magazine and when the rifle was tested witness found that it was not jammed.
A Home Guard private, William Hemsley, of Gore Park-road, said that when they all left the post Bowyer said: "See you Sunday, boys," and walked across the grounds towards a smaller gate instead of leaving by the main gate.
Evidence given by Police-sergt. Froude was that he found the body on an asphalt ramp leading down from the playing fields towards a gate leading to St Anne's-road. He could find no indication that Bowyer had ever intended any harm to himself.
The Coroner said it was possible that Bowyer slipped on the ramp and the rifle was discharged as he fell. It would not be fair to say that Bowyer committed suicide, and the verdict would be one of "Accidental death."