STO Harry Cecil Bowen (1895 – 1923)

Harry Cecil Bowen was born on New Year’s Day 1895 in Wrotham Heath, the second eldest of eight children of Henry Bowen, a local brickmaker, and his wife, Alice Ada Terry. He was christened in St Mary’s Platt Parish Church and attended Platt School, afterwards working as a farm labourer. Before the war, he was employed by Chittenden & Simmons, a road engineering firm engaged in government work in France.

Cecil, as he was more commonly known, enlisted in the Royal Navy on 9 December 1915. He initially served as a second-class stoker at HMS Pembroke II, a shore establishment in Sheerness primarily used for the Chatham barracks. Men returned there between ships for leave, training, and administration. 

On 8 March 1916, Cecil transferred to HMS Diligence, a depot ship based at Scapa Flow, which acted as a “Post Box” and accounting, pay centre, etc., for the Destroyers’ equipment, munitions and men. Cecil would have been serving as part of the support team and was promoted to 1st class stoker, but eighteen months later, he returned to Pembroke II and was invalided out of the Navy on 17 October 1917, suffering from tuberculosis. Several periods of sanatorium treatment followed, and Cecil made some improvement; however, on 28 August, he suddenly relapsed and died on the 31st. In his final years, Cecil lived in a shed at the end of the garden at Forge Cottages in Wrotham Heath and passed away with his family by his bedside.

As Cecil died after the construction of the Platt War Memorial, his name wasn’t included on the original memorial plaques. However, he was commemorated on another memorial in the church that was created in 1923 and mounted at the back of the church. In 2016, his name (as Harry) was included on a new plaque added to the relocated Platt War Memorial.