Remembering Captain Geoffrey Grenside Bowen, 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers
As we come towards the end of the centenary year of the First World War, we are taking a closer look at those who fought and died in the last months of the war. Our successful 1918 Centenary tours explored the events of the final year and our First & Last Shots tour next year will look at the last days of the war that changed the world. However, we would like to take the opportunity to explore the story of a remarkable individual who almost made it throughout the entire war.
Captain Geoffrey Grenside Bowen’s story is one of great persistence and triumph, fighting in nearly every major battle on the Western Front, before tragically losing his life on the 2nd September 1918, just a few weeks before the armistice was signed.
Geoffrey was raised in Burley, near Brockenhurst in the New Forest. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers ten days after the declaration of war. He made Lieutenant a year later and fought on the first day of the Somme in 1916, becoming acting Captain a few months later.
It was during the Battle of Arrasin 1917 that Bowen made his mark, receiving the Military Cross for his courageous action despite being wounded twice. His citation reads: “He led his company with great skill and courage. On four separate occasions he advanced his company and had to dig in new lines. His personal example was of the utmost value to his men under very trying conditions.” At the time, the Military Cross was awarded for ‘an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations.’ The battle was an initial success for the British forces, achieving the longest advance since trench warfare began, before slowing into a bloody and costly stalemate between the British and the German forces.
Bowen survived the massacre of Passchendaele later that year and kept fighting on the Western Front until September 1918. On the 2nd September, Bowen took part in the Battle of Drocourt-Queant on the northernmost section of the Hindenburg Line where he was shot through the chest. His last words were reportedly of regret that he ‘will not be at the end’ with the rest of his battalion. He was laid to rest at the Windmill British Cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux, a little over a month before the end of the war on the 11th November 1918.
Captain Geoffrey Grenside Bowen was remembered by his family through the private publishing of the many dairies and letters he wrote and the photos he took during the war. He is more recently being remembered by the Road to Peace Campaign, undertaken by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate those who died in the last months of the war. CWGC historian Max Dutton said: “Our Road to Peace Campaign will remind people of the human cost of the Great War, the sheer diversity of those who took part and the global nature of that sacrifice and remembrance today.”
Other organisations and charities are also forging paths of remembrance. Fordingbridge Museum in Hampshire has opened an ambitious new exhibition to mark the centenary, including an unusual caltrop dug up on the Somme Battlefield, designed to maim horses in areas vulnerable to cavalry attack.
Added: 14th September 2018