Henry Robertson Bowers was born in Greenock, Scotland on 29 July 1883. He was educated at the High School in Streatham and at the age of fourteen entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship HMS Worcester. In 1899, he went to sea in the sailing ship Loch Torridon, where he rose to be Chief Officer. He was appointed to the Royal Navy Reserve and in 1905 to the Royal Indian Marine.
Bowers was selected for the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), initially as stores officer in the Terra Nova, but he became a valued member of the shore party. He took part in several sledging journeys, including the winter journey, led by Edward Wilson, to Cape Crozier to collect early embryos of emperor penguins. Bowers was one of four in the support group that accompanied the main polar party up the Beardmore Glacier and across the polar plateau. In a late change of plan, Scott decided to expand the polar party to five, though whether Bowers or Oates was the fifth man is unclear. Certainly, Bowers' skill as navigator was indispensable to Scott, who had more than enough to think about without having to navigate as well. On 17 January 1912, Bowers, along with Scott, Wilson, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans, arrived at the Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911. On the return journey, the weakened party faced exceptionally unfavourable weather and sledging conditions. Bowers died with Scott and Wilson in late March 1912, laid up by a blizzard 11 miles short of One Ton Depot.
Biographical works, The fifth man, the life of H.R. Bowers by Charles H. Lagerbom, Caedmon, Whitby (1999) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bowers, H.R.] and Birdie Bowers of the Antarctic by George Seaver, John Murray, London (1938) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Bowers, H.R.]