Frank Charles Bowen  (1894-1957)  devoted his life to maritime research and writing.

Having been raised in the port of Ramsgate, Frank Bowen’s interest in ships began at a young age.  He was employed as a machine valuer but his main hobby was collecting information on anything to do with ships. 

When the war commenced in 1914 he joined the Royal Naval Brigade and fought in the Dardanelles. From 1915 he was recruited to Naval Intelligence until the war ended.  His expertise on nautical knowledge was a major asset in the war effort.

Becoming a Maritime Journalist and Writer after the war, he lived for a short time in London before relocating to Customs House in Gravesend.

Locally he became a well known figure along the quayside and was regularly seen watching the ships on the River Thames.  He built a large maritime library which consisted a large collection of press cuttings.  His collection took over a number of rooms in Customs House which were bound in approximately 1,000 volumes all with card indexes. 

He went on to publish over 20 books on ships and shipping.  He published classics which included:

  • The Flags of the Southern Cross
  • The King’s Navy
  • Men of the Wooden Walls
  • Ships We See
  • Sailing Ships
  • The London River, and The Sea, Its History and Romance.

Bowen was a regular contributor to Sea Breezes magazine.   Due to ill health, he sold his collection to Sea Breezes Magazine in 1954. 

Unfortunately the press cuttings and indexes were separated, however during 1994-1995 they were reunited at Southampton Reference Library and the collections are available to the general public.  “The Frank Bowen Collection” is now available under microfilm at the Maritime Library.

Frank Bowen died in January 1957 at Gravesend.

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