William Henry BOWDEN

BOWDEN, William Henry

Service Number: 4146
Enlisted: 16 August 1916
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 1891
Home Town: Kingswood, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Warehouseman
Died: 26 March 1935, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Adelaide Grand Masonic Lodge WW1 Honour Board
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World War 1 Service

11 Jan 1916: Involvement Private, SN 4146, 10th Infantry Battalion
11 Jan 1916: Embarked Private, SN 4146, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Borda, Adelaide
15 Aug 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 50th Infantry Battalion, Pozières, "Shell wound right leg compound fracture". Leg recorded amputated 20.9.16.
16 Aug 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 4146, 10th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Saint Ignatius' College

William Henry Bowden

Mrs. M Bowden gave birth to William Henry Bowden in 1891, on Kyre Avenue, Kingswood, in South Australia. As an adult, William had light brown hair, fair skin and grey eyes, weighing 54 kgs and measuring at 5’6. William worked as a warehouseman in his days before the war, sending goods directly from the warehouse. On the 28th of June, 1914, one of the deadliest wars of all time was declared, called “the war to end all wars” after the Austro-Hungarian heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. The Allies in the war consisted of Australia, Canada, India, NZ, Russia, Italy and France, and the Central Powers were Turkey, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Australia, 20,000 people volunteered in the first few weeks, with many lying about their age to get in because they were so eager to fight for their country. However, by the end of 1914, only 50,000 people had volunteered, which was a much lower rate than was required.

At 24 years old, Bowden volunteered to fight and was enlisted on 16 August 1915 and probably trained in Broadmeadows camp in Victoria. A few months later, William embarked for Europe on the HMAT Borda A30 to fight on the Western Front. He left Australia on the 11th of January 1916 as a Private and his unit was the 10th Battalion, 13th Reinforcement, with his regimental number being 4146. The Western Front was the main war theatre of operations for the British and Dominion forces during WW1, and although it was named the Western Front by the Allies, it was actually the German Western Front. On the 1st of March 1916, William was promoted to the rank of CSM (Sergeant Major), which is the senior specialist and is a non-commissioned rank. Only 26 days later, William was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, meaning he stood above enlisted soldiers and warrant officers, but are a lower rank than Lieutenants, colonels and generals. However, William was promoted yet again to Lieutenant in July of 1916, earning him multiple promotions in a year.


During his time on the field, William was awarded with multiple medals. He received a Star Medal, a British War medal and a Victory medal throughout his time fighting for Australia. The British War medal was awarded to people of British and Imperial forces who had served at any point in the war, or those who had been killed in action as a thanks for their service. The Star medal was awarded alongside the British war medal and the British Victory medal, and it was introduced in December 1918. It was awarded to the soldiers of the British and Imperial forces who had served against the Central Powers between the 5th of August 1914 and the 31st of December 1915. The Victory medal was the third of the three medals awarded to William, and it was awarded to all those who had served in the armed forces during WW1. This medal was also awarded to civilians who had worked alongside the armed forces and people who had served in military hospitals.


William was seriously wounded on the 15th of August 1916, sffering a compound fracture of his right leg due to a shell. He was evacuated to England and his foot eventually had to be amputated. He returned to Australia on the 1st of February 1918. After returning at the end of the war, William continued with his life.

William was 27 years old by the time he had returned to Australia and was incredibly lucky to have survived three whole years while on the Western Front, when the average lifespan was measured in days, weeks or months at most. However, William unfortunately lost his leg and foot in battle, leaving him disabled for the rest of his life.  William died on the 26th of March 1935 at the age of 44 years old.


William’s service reflected the ANZAC Spirit in many ways. William was always loyal to his services and never attempted to run away or break any rules during his time serving in the war. He showed courage and great determination when he was severely wounded. He showed great mateship and determination throughout his whole time in the Western Front, earning him his title of Lieutenant, and was very committed to the fight. His patriotism was very strong, as he was willing to give his life for his country due to his love and pride in it. This is not something that can be done easily, as throwing one’s life aside for anything is very difficult to bring oneself to do, and yet William went without a second thought. William and everyone else that fought in the war had to endure many hardships, showing their severe endurance and strength. The Western Front was a horrible place to be, and William had to endure rats, lice, the stench of rotting bodies, churned up bodily waste, the lingering smell of gas, the constant fear of dying and much more. William was also very selfless and would try to bring his wounded friends and other soldiers to safety, reflecting his mateship. He and almost every other soldier had to face the loss of many friends while in war, as the life expectancy in the trenches was around six weeks, which would’ve scarred him for the rest of his life. Although he was permanently disabled from the war, William Henry Bowden continued with his life, still showing all the traits of the ANZAC Spirit long after the war.