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The Life and Times of Valentine Fennell Bowler

Text and Images by Christopher Albertson



Valentine Fennell Bowler was born in 1894 on Annandayle Station, the family property near Holbrook, Germanton, New South Wales to parents Samuel Patrick and Mary Catherine Bowler (nee Fallon). Val, as he was known, was the second eldest of six boys, with an elder brother John and younger brothers Harold, Samuel, Cyril and Kenneth. Sadly his father Samuel died in 1903, when Val was just eight years old. Val attended St Ignatius Catholic College in Riverview, Sydney and obtained rural training at Wagga Wagga Experimental Farm. At the time of his enlistment he was a grazier on the family station and had also previously served one year of compulsory service with the 44th Infantry.

Val successfully enlisted in the AIF in Liverpool on January 27th 1915 by increasing his age to 22, although he was only 20 at the time. He was posted to the 2nd Reinforcements to the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment with the rank of Trooper, and embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Anglo-Egyptian on February 8th. He saw war service in Egypt prior to being sent to Gallipoli, where his regiment relieved the 2nd Light Horse at Pope’s Post. His younger brother Harold also put his age up to enlist.

Val was taken on strength at Gallipoli with the 1st Light Horse Regiment from his 2nd Reinforcements on July 15th 1915, and on August 3rd the 1st Light Horse began relieving the 2nd Light Horse at Pope’s Post. On August 7th the 1st Light Horse attacked the Turkish trenches opposite Pope’s Hill in support of the major attack by the 3rd Light Horse at the Nek. This support attack was at a great human cost to his regiment with 27 dead, 99 wounded and 32 missing officers and men, however Charles Bean records the number of casualties as 154 from an original attacking party of 200.

Grave of Valentine Fennell Bowler in Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli

Val was killed on August 7th 1915 by a sniper whilst on sentry duty following the day’s strong fighting. Of his death, Private Walter John Hudson wrote, “At about 9.50 on the night of the 7th August, Bowler told me he was feeling ill – generally run down. At about 10 oclock, myself and Bowler went to our posts in the trench at Pope’s Hill, the two posts being within 20 yards of each other. Within a few minutes Bowler was shot through the head…” Val was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station where Private John Francis “Frank” Purtell, a mate of his, stayed with him until he passed away around two hours later. Frank later gave Val’s kit to his brother Harold, who served in the 12th Light Horse Regiment before being transferred to the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. Like Val, Frank was born in Holbrook and they possibly knew each other prior to both being posted to the 2nd Reinforcements to the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment, where they embarked together and fought together at Gallipoli, where Val was killed. Val was buried at Beach Cemetery on the southern point of ANZAC Cove the following day by Chaplain Reverend McPhee. He was just 21 years old.

Val’s brother Harold survived the war and at the time of his discharge was in training as a flying officer pilot with the rank of Second Lieutenant on probation with No. 6 Training Squadron, Australian Flying Corps.