Thomas BOWEN #6522

Thomas Bowen

Indigenous Australian, Thomas BOWEN, 18th Infantry Battalion.

Thomas BOWEN was born in Charters Towers, Qld. about 1875 and had been employed as a shearer at Narrabri when he enlisted in January 1917.

Bowen would have been a striking figure standing 6ft 3in high and weighing 13 stone; his wife Mary Ann Bowen resided at the Angledool Aboriginal Reserve, near Lightning Ridge.

Bowen left Australia on board the troopship ‘Wiltshire’ with the other recruits assigned to the 19th Reinforcements for the 18th Infantry Battalion in February 1917. They arrived in England eight weeks later, training first at Rollestone Camp, then Windmill Hill, Andover and Perham Downs before joining his Battalion near Arques, northern France on 28 August 1917.

On 20 September 1917 the Battalion was conducting an assault along Westhoek Ridge and although they achieved their objectives, over 200 men were killed, including Private Thomas Bowen.

Thomas Bowen’s effects were retrieved in two consignments and directed to his wife Mary at the mission. The first was received in November 1917 and the second in May 1919.

Mary was granted a pension in 1918 after the manager of the mission wrote to the authorities on her behalf.  She also received Thomas’s service medals in 1922. Mary died at Brewarrina in 1936.

There is no known grave for Private Thomas Bowen, he is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Thomas Bowen’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, on the morning of 9 August 2018 and again in the evening of 27 September 2018.

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Marg Powell & Des Crump  | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland