Francis Fowke entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1839. His pre-eminent drawing ability led to a commission with the Royal Engineers, one of only four in his year. He was made second lieutenant on 18 June 1842, first lieutenant on 1 April 1846, second captain on 17 February 1854, and captain on 23 February 1856.Shortly after marrying he was sent to Bermuda, and served there for four or five years. On his return to England he was stationed in Devonport, Plymouth, where he was responsible for planning and designing the extensive Raglan Barracks. He imported new ideas about the construction of barracks from experiences of British soldiers in India and designed them with verandahs and wide open spaces as a consequence. It was referred to as being in the 'pavilion' style. It also had the cookhouse and the privies built in seperate blocks to aid hygiene and sanitary conditions. He received a great deal of credit for the design at a time that the army was seeking to improve its reputation in light of the disastrous Crimean campaign.
His imperial connections grew when he was posted to Paris to represent Britain in the Paris Universal Exhibition (modelled on the Great Exhibition. Whilst there, he carried out a series of experiments on the strength of colonial woods, the results of which were published in the parliamentary reports on the exhibition, and which led to a huge increase in the exports of Jamaican lancewood and mahogany for construction.
Empire in Your Backyard: Plymouth Article | Significant Individuals