BOWERS (HENRY ROBERTSON, 'Birdie') Three autograph letters signed, written from Burma, 1907-1909
Lot 106
BOWERS (HENRY ROBERTSON, 'Birdie') Three autograph letters signed, written from Burma, 1907-1909
£4,000 - 6,000
US$ 6,700 - 10,000
Lot Details
Three autograph letters signed ("Henry"), written from Burma on board three different ships, the first to his sister May [later Lady Maxwell], written from Rangoon on board the Dufferin, setting out his religious beliefs, giving an account of a black eye he has suffered ("it was only caused in a harmless box which I was enjoying right merrily when I noticed my right eye was closing without orders. Instead of singing out "on the knee" I left it alone & continued for another 1/2 hour..."), and discussing the half-yearly confidential reports ("As nobody sees these things except the Director and the Government officers at Simla they are a powerful lever in the hand of an unscrupulous man"), 8 pages, on Royal Indian Marine "Dufferin" headed notepaper, 8vo, Rangoon, 4 January 1907; the second to his mother, written from the Bhamo on the Irrawaddy River (expecting to reach Mandalay the next day), giving details of the weather, his diet and loss of weight, visits to gambling clubs ("I am not bound to gamble, though nowadays some people seem to think that to be a 'Sahib' you must. Do as Romans do"), and recounting an acquaintance's tale of a mauling at the hands of a tiger ("colossal lies"), 6 pages, 4to, R.I.M.S. "Bhamo", Schwega to Moda, 19 July 1907; the third letter also to his mother, written as the Northbrook reaches the Irrawaddy Delta, describing the vast numbers of ships in Rangoon harbour ("I have counted as many as 37 British India Steamers alone"), commenting on the fact that trade is dominated by British, German and Indian interests, and giving an account of the annual Signalman's exams, over which he is presiding with as much impartiality as possible ("They think that I am disloyal to my ship because I don't cheat in their favour"), 8 pages, on Royal Indian Marine stamped paper, 8vo, "Northbrook", Rangoon River, 15 January 1909


  • 'BIRDIE' ON THE ROAD TO MANDALAY. These letters, which give glimpses of the strong selfless character which was to emerge in the Antarctic, and the deep-held religious beliefs which kept him going in impossible conditions, were written by Bowers during trips on three different ships sailing up and down the Irrawaddy, whilst he was serving with the Royal Indian Marine Service in Burma (his father had died in Rangoon). It was during training for this on board HMS Worcester that he had met Sir Clements Markham, who thought so highly of him that he convinced Scott to take him on the fateful Terra Nova expedition, without an interview and despite the fact that he had no previous polar experience.

    One of the letters found in Scott's tent was addressed to Bowers' mother: "I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit ever shone brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end." See illustration overleaf.
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