Obituary: Sir Neville was the Boss of the forklift industry

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw
Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

The founder of a former Leighton Buzzard business, which at one time employed 2,000 people, has died aged 84.

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw, who alongside his brother Trevor built up Lancer Boss, was one of the leading figures in the fork lift truck industry.

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

The firm began in Slough in the early 1950s before moving to Dunstable in 1961, with a further move to Grovebury Road shortly afterwards due to its rapidly expanding business.

The company was responsible for many industry innovations over the decades.

A former High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, Sir Neville was recommended by then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, for a knighthood in 1984 for exporting 85% of Lancer Boss’s output.

In some cases the company accepted goods in exchange for fork lift trucks because the customers in the emerging Eastern Bloc had no hard currency.

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

Lancer Boss went into receivership in 1994 because of difficulties at its German affiliate Steinbock Boss.

Subsequently Lancer Boss was acquired by Jungheinrich who closed the Leighton factory in 2003.

In 1997, Sir Neville founded Samuk, from where he retired in 2012 after a career spanning more than 60 years in the fork lift truck industry.

Sir Neville and Lady Georgina Bowman-Shaw, were the owners of Toddington Manor from 1979 to 2012.

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw

He was a keen sportsman, and, for more than 30 years, Toddington Manor had a noted pheasant and partridge shoot, with additional shooting rights over 800 neighbouring acres of land.

After his retirement the couple moved to Fritwell, Oxfordshire.

Sir Neville, died peacefully at home on July 11.

A Service of Thanksgiving was held at St Olav’s Church in Fritwell on July 22.

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw NOQB9qtSqcKEPgE4KawA

Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw NOQB9qtSqcKEPgE4KawA

The following is an extract from the LBO taken from January 31, 1967, which was read out at the service.

The editorial comment piece, headed ‘Right Kind Of Zeal’ states: “There ought to be no despondency about the future of Leighton Linslade as a thriving, pulsating sort of town so long as we have industrialists of the calibre of the Bowman-Shaw brothers, Neville and Trevor.

“There are others just as enterprising, but these young men who started Lancer Boss from scratch ten years ago, provide the most recent example of the heights of achievement that can be reached by harnessing courage and energy and driving on to the top.

“Not everybody needs to use a lift-truck as often as a car, of course, so there is little likelihood of Grovebury Road becoming another Vauxhall works, but when, in ten years, a firm can rise from obscurity to eminence as the best-known in its own particular branch of engineering and acquire a worldwide reputation then its star of destiny must be shining very bright indeed.”

The piece added the brothers’ ambition was “the sort of zeal that is going to help Leighton to emerge from its backwater with dramatic suddenness.”

> A former employee between 1965 to 1994, who asked not to be named, told the LBO: “It was not long after joining the company that I became aware of the man known as Mr Neville or GNBS.

“As soon as he came into your presence it became very evident he was a man with a great zeal for the company you belonged to and what was felt and expected of those who worked for it.

“As I moved into middle management I became more involved with Sir Neville. Most people who knew him were well aware of his hire and fire tactics but it was noticeable that his middle management team seemed to be mainly stable and very loyal (although a little worried when a call came to visit his office).

“It must be said that many admired Sir Neville and his brother Trevor for their achievement in taking Lancer Boss to a worldwide known mechanical handling business and I was and am still very proud to have been a part of it.

“As for myself, for nearly 30 years Lancer Boss was a large part of my life and even though it has been gone for some 20 years the passing of Sir Neville (the chairman) has felt rather like losing a close relative and I know there are those too who have remarked in recent days the same sentiments. He was a man I expected to live for ever.

“In retired life how glad I am that way back in 1965 our paths crossed and I found a vocation in his company that I loved and has now provided me with a reasonable comfortable life.

“My last thought, after attending Sir Neville’s Thanksgiving Service and hearing one of his son paying a tribute to his father’s life, I could not help thinking that in reality there was not a lot different between him and me in life because all we wanted was to be a good father wishing the best in life for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

> What are your memories or Lancer Boss and Sir Neville? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk