A young Napier man by the name of Christopher Courtenay Bowen, who left his home town when he was barely 20 and never returned, has been honoured by an official visit to where his memory has long rested - in Iraq.

For historian Phillip Rankin, who with Judith Craigie has worked tirelessly through the years to compile a complete and detailed list of Napier Boy's High School old boys who served and died in World War I, getting the news only a couple of weeks ago that the memorial stone of one of those old boys had been adorned with a poppy was as good as it gets.

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"It was brilliant," was how Mr Rankin put it as he looked upon a photo taken at the North Gate War Cemetery in Baghdad, Iraq.


The cemetery is overseen by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

It shows New Zealand Ambassador James Munro with Deputy Commanding General Brigadier Hugh McAslan of the New Zealand Defence Force Team at the memorial stone for Trooper Bowen where they have placed a poppy.

They had gone there at the request of Matthew Hawkins from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Middle East.

During the course of his many archival works and efforts to detail as much as he could about the school old boys lost to war, Mr Rankin had been in touch with Mr Hawkins and discussed the young Napier man's resting place in a part of the world not usually traditionally linked in with the Kiwi losses of WW1.

While Mr Hawkins had been unable to make the visit he got in touch with Mr Munro, who being a Hawke's Bay-born lad said he would do his best to get there.

Which he was ultimately able to do.

It was effectively a visit of both respect and confirmation that the memorial was bearing the name of Trooper Bowen, as it was initially declared that he had been buried in a cemetery in Angora (now Ankara) in Turkey - as it had been custom to bury troops of the Commonwealth in a "Christian cemetery" there.

However, Mr Rankin said although Trooper Bowen had died and been buried in Angora, Iraq, at that time governed under a British mandate, was seen as a safer place for the grave memorials of troops and many were later transferred there.


He believes the memorial stones were likely shifted during the 1920s, but with recent destructive events in Iraq he feared many may not have come through.

"I was convinced it would have been shattered to a thousand pieces," he said.

Which meant finally getting the news it was intact and standing was very special and he was indebted to the determination of Mr Hawkins to see it through.

"He did a great job in assisting us and this brings it to something of a closure."

As well as locate and identify the memorial to Trooper Bowen Mr Munro and Commanding General Brigadier McAslan were also able to locate several other memorials to fallen Kiwi soldiers from WWI, which they also placed poppies upon.

The only doubt that remains is the actual whereabouts of Trooper Bowens's body as a special "Kipling " memorial erected at the North Gate Cemetery in Baghdad declares.

"To the memory of these 268 soldiers and sailors of the British Empire who died as prisoners of war and were buried at the time in the cemeteries of Angora, Ada Bazar, Bozanti, Islahie and Nisibin but whose graves are now lost - their glory shall not be blotted out."

The locating and honouring of Trooper Bowen's memorial has underlined that his sacrifice, like so many others, would not be "blotted out".

Christopher Courtenay Bowen was born in 1895 and grew up with his parents Edward and Lucy in Cameron Rd, Napier.

At Napier Boy's High School he excelled at cricket and swimming, of which he was one of the school's top four champions in 1911.

In 1915 he represented Hawke's Bay in the New Zealand Swimming Championships staged in Napier.

And in that respect his name very firmly lives on, for from 1918 the CC Bowen Memorial Cup has been contested for in senior swimming.

After his death his mother presented the cup to the school to be contested in his name.
It could be said he also took his swimming prowess overseas with him, for it is posted in his war records that in August of 1916, while stationed in Egypt, he won a "swimming championship" staged at the Suez Canal.

After leaving high school he took up a job at the National Bank and in August 1915 he gave up the collar and tie of that role and went into uniform after enlisting with the Auckland Mounted Rifles.

He was one of 11 old boys to enrol at that time - and at the end of the war he would sadly be one of the 82 old boys to have lost their lives during WWI.

He embarked for Egypt, and the Suez Canal zone in January 1916.

Turkish forces had moved into the region looking to take the canal.

On August 4, 1916 Trooper Bowen was part of a nine-man patrol at Bir Abu Raml which came across several columns of Turkish troops.

Author and historian, and former soldier, Terry Kinloch researched the events which led to Trooper Bowen's capture for a book he wrote about Anzacs serving in the Middle East.

He recorded that Lieutenant Frank Alsopp sent a sergeant and a few men out to investigate and they confirmed the sighting of the Turkish troops.

The sergeant left the men there to keep an eye on the enemy movements and rode back to Bir Abu Raml to make his report.

It was not an easy return journey after he found himself riding between two enemy columns - and coolly rode along one column until he found a gap to escape through.

He was unable to locate Lieutenant Alsopp so rode on to Pelusium to make his report.

It later transpired that a note was found - left by the Turks confirming the soldiers in the patrol had been captured.

They were tied together and marched back to Palestine.

Mr Kinloch said they were later taken to Smyrna where they were forced to live in one room along with about 100 prisoners.

"In appalling conditions."

It would have hit Trooper Bowen hard as he had suffered poor health on several occasions while in the service.

He had been hospitalised at least twice and a fellow soldier who got to meet him said he had joined their group after leaving hospital but was readmitted a fortnight later.

"From what I gather from an Englishman who saw him die the cause of death was heart failure, although the only complaints I had known him to suffer from were dysentery and general weakness."

On his "casualty form" issued by the army it simply states "cause of death - died - not given."

His death was reported as being January 6, 1917, and today, as it is with all those old boys who died at war, on the day they were registered as lost the school flag is lowered to half mast.

Despite the school being closed for the holiday period at that time the caretaker still carried it out, and on the first day back it was again acknowledged for the current pupils.

Trooper Bowen's name is on the presently stored Roll of Honour but unfortunately his name is down as CG Bowen...it should read CC Bowen.

"It would be good if that could be corrected," Mr Rankin said.