George Lloyd Bowen was a casualty of the First World War, but died back in Australia while the conflict was still raging far from home. At the time of his enlistment he was his widowed mother’s only child, living with her at 277 Glebe Point Rd, in Palmerston Terrace. George’s mother was a dressmaker and at different times called herself Mabel, Mary and Susannah.
Born Roman Catholic at Richmond NSW to John Ector Bowen and Susanna née Tierney (1855–1939) who married at Ryde in 1883, George was predeceased by two siblings: Lancelot Lloyd (who died aged 7 months in 1884) and Blanch Tydvil (who died aged 7 months in 1890). His father (who was a Mason) died aged 37 in 1892 and his six-year-old sister Marion Tydvil the next year.
George was educated at Fort St Boys. He made some pocket money winning prizes for items published in The Arrow’s Brain Busters’ column:
Q. What is the biggest gun in the service?
A. Don’t know, but the Earth is the biggest revolver.
A customs clerk, George enlisted (service number 2880) on 1 March 1915 and was sent with the 5th Field Ambulance to Egypt, thence Lemnos and Gallipoli, where he landed on 23 August 1915. In October he was evacuated with typhoid and malaria (enteric fever) to the Australian General Hospital on Heliopolis, after which he was repatriated to Australia, arriving on 3 January 1916. Discharged from the army on 9 August, he died in the 4th Australian General Military Hospital at Randwick on 26 May 1917 with his mother present. ‘George L Bowen 5th F A B’ was buried in Waverley Cemetery. Friends paid for his headstone.
Although the medical review board at Port Said in December 1915 accepted that George’s enteric fever had been contracted at Gallipoli as a result of his military service, his claim for a disability pension was rejected in September 1916 on the grounds that he was not incapacitated. Posthumously he was issued all three World War One service medals in 1921, and in 1924 Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation J E Barrett finally accepted that his death was attributable to his war service and a Memorial Plaque and Scroll was issued to his mother.
Susannah Bowen remained at 277 Glebe Point Rd until the Depression when she moved to 144A St Johns Rd and then to 12 Hereford St and to 1 Toxteth Rd. ‘Sorrowing’ and ‘lonely’, she inserted regular memorial notices to her son in the Herald’s On Active Service column:
The will of Heaven my will shall be
His soul to Him who gave it rose
God led it to its own repose.
Testate, she died on 16 August 1939. Her funeral service was held at St James Church Forest Lodge. George Bowen’s khaki woollen private’s cap is in the Australian War Memorial collection.