William was born in Brecon in November 1895 and is living with his family in 24, Silver Street, Llanfaes, in 1901, listed as the son of William and Martha Bowen. By 1911, young William, 16, has left home and is a labourer on a farm in Carmarthenshire. At this time the family were living at 6, Maendu Street, although by the time of his death they are listed at 4, London Row, Brecon.
William joined the Royal Navy later in 1911 and in July 1914, whilst serving on the HMS Temeraine, he takes some unauthorised time off to return home to Brecon where he is subsequently arrested. He appeared in court and was ordered to be handed over to the Naval authorities. Punishment could not have been too severe as by 1916 he was serving as an Able Seaman aboard the HMS Defence. This was
a Minotaur class Armoured Cruiser which was ordered in 1904/5 and then built by Pembroke Dockyard, and completed in 1909. She served in the Mediterranean at the start of the war but had returned home to become flagship of the Grand Fleet in January 1915.
HMS Defence was sunk on 31 May 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the war. Escorting the main body of the Grand Fleet, the ship was fired upon by one German battle cruiser,
Able Seaman William Bowen
Royal Navy HMS Defence, service no. J/19493
Died at Sea, Battle of Jutland. May 31st, 1916
Commemorated at Plymouth Naval Memorial
and stomach. Everything possible was done to try and save his life, but unfortunately his wounds were fatal. Your son became unconscious an hour before he died, and sank very quietly without suffering. He was visited by the Catholic Priest while he was conscious. May I express to you my sincere sympathy in this very sad loss.
Yours faithfully, ......, Sister.’
Jack's elder brother James was serving with the Brecknocks in India, having been with them since the outbreak of war.