Martin (Didley) Bowdler was born in Cambridge in 1965 and died on 8 May 2006.

Lt M Bowdler
Lt M Bowdler

In 1985, as a Short Service Officer, he joined the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars (Duke of Edinburgh Sqn), in Munster, Germany, before finishing his service in 1989 while the Regiment was at Catterick.

Despite his relatively few years with the Regiment, he left a mark on it and on his many friends from those days.

With his great sense of fun and ready wit and willingness to help anyone and everyone Martin, or Didley as he became known, quickly became a very welcome and popular member of the Officers’ Mess…..Sergeants’ Mess……Corporals’ Mess…..Naafi bar, his Squadron and the Regiment. The odd party or three were also considerably enlivened by his presence.

Martin took an informal and relaxed approach to life and military discipline, believing that boundaries were not just to be explored; they were to be exceeded wherever possible. The resulting frequent visits to the Adjutant made him a very accomplished orderly officer, for which his brother junior officers were eternally grateful.

Such an informal view of discipline was, however, combined with intense loyalty to the Regiment and to his men. During the warm-up to the Gulf War, despite having left the army the previous year, Martin made his way out to Saudi Arabia and tracked down the Regiment in the desert well to the west of Al Jubayl. Here, he was “found” chatting to members of his old squadron and hoping to re-join.

Didley was a creative soul, a quality which rarely failed to cheer up mess life and which provided the source of his inspiration and skill as a prolific artist and caricaturist. It was the latter that led to perhaps his most well-known contribution in this field, the sardonic and highly amusing ‘Spud is…’ cartoons starring his then squadron leader Maj. Simon Franklin.

With his historian’s enthusiasm and artist’s eye, Martin also took a close interest in the Regimental painting collection researching each one assiduously and becoming something of an authority in the process.

Indeed, it was he who spotted that one of the miniatures, a somewhat uninspiring daub whose chief use until then was for target practice (not least by the young Bowdler himself) when opening champagne bottles, was actually nothing of the sort. It was in fact both the original for the much larger and well-known painting of Col. Banastre Tarleton, which hangs in the National Gallery, and signed by the artist himself, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Swift removal to a safer location followed.

On the sporting front, Martin excelled at sailing and polo (bicycle variety), where it soon became clear that lending one’s bike to Cornet Bowdler was the last you would see of it in any semblance of working order. This was despite the Bowdler charm, which was hard at work persuading the local engineer support to patch up the battle casualties.

Sailing was a different proposition altogether as one would expect from a man brought up with the scent of the Solent in his nostrils. A proficient sailor, Martin raced for the Regiment at the Kiel, Cowes and Seaview Regattas.

As you might expect, though, his initial selection was not entirely straightforward as Crossbelts reveals.

‘Capt Mike Pheaby, 3 RTR, busy talent spotting at Seaview very kindly invited us to race on the Army boat ‘Redcoat’ during Cowes Week. In the end, owing to Canadian commitments, only Lt Ormerod was available. However, an enthusiastic Ct Bowdler, keen to escape his record-breaking series of extras in Münster, also managed to find himself a place, claiming that he had once skippered a boat to the South of France. It was only on arriving in Cowes, once he was firmly out of reach of the Adjutant, that he admitted that his route to the South of France had been motoring through the canals and not as we had imagined via the more intrepid Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar route!’

In 1989, Martin married Joanna with whom he had a daughter Saffron and to whom he was completely devoted. Away from the Army, Martin continued to develop his creative talents being variously a sports marketeer, a children’s entertainer and a garden designer before going on to study at The Norwich School of Art.

Alas, having been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2003, his recent years were difficult. Though treated successfully, the disease took its toll on his general well-being and prevented him from pursuing an interest in teaching. Sara, his partner for the last few years, cared for him during this period and was real support for him.

R&R was not without its hazards either. Having decided that this could best be achieved by spending some time in Southern Africa, it was in typical Didley form that whilst diving in Mozambique he managed to get the bends and had to be airlifted to a decompression chamber in Durban.

As a brother officer Martin was a loyal and un-judgemental friend, kind, exuberant, fun to be with and generous of spirit and mess bill.

He will be fondly remembered by his many friends from the Regiment, a great number of whom packed the church for his funeral in Beaulieu.

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