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British Industrial History

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Eric Vansittart Bowater

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(Frederick) Eric Vansittart Bowater (1895–1962), paper manufacturer and industrialist

1895 Frederick Vansittart Bowater was born in Bromley, son of Sir Frederick William Bowater, paper merchant, and his wife, Alice Emily (nee Sharp), and grandson of William Vansittart Bowater

Educated at Charterhouse

1913 Commissioned in the Royal Artillery and served from 1913 to 1917, but suffered wounds at Ypres in 1915 of such severity that he was later invalided out.

1915 Married Blanche Currie, née de Ville

1921 Entered the family firm, W. V. Bowater and Sons , joining his father and two uncles. At that time the company operated purely as paper merchants. Although he had no background technical knowledge of the paper industry he soon realized that the true potential of the family business was not in marketing other firms' products but in manufacturing the goods itself. With this end in view and in the face of some opposition, but with his father's backing, he planned the first Bowater paper mill at Northfleet.

Bowater became managing director of the company.

1927 He bought out his uncles and became chairman and managing director of the firm. He dominated the company's affairs by sheer force of personality.

1928 He foresaw the need for the supply of newsprint to keep abreast of the accelerating pace of newspaper circulation and doubled the capacity of Northfleet.

1929 he opened another newsprint mill at Ellesmere Port to supply the press rooms in Manchester and the growing markets for provincial newspapers of the north.

Soon expanded Ellesmere Port, acquired mills at Sittingbourne and Kemsley and purchased the newsprint and pulp mills at Corner Brook in Newfoundland.

1937 Married Margaret Vivian Perkins, of Toronto, Canada.

1940 Became director-general of Ministry of Aircraft Production.

1944 Knighted

1945 he became controller of the Aircraft Production.

Post-WWII: started to diversify the firm, entering the packaging industry.

By the mid-1950s Bowaters was also handling more than 1 million tons of raw materials and finished products by sea.

Responsible for major expansion in the USA and for formation of joint company Bowater-Scott Corporation making tissues.

1962 Died at home in West Horsley, Surrey


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Sources of Information

  • Biography, ODNB