Lieutenant Colonel Peter E. Bowen
202nd (Sportsman’s) Battalion
This officer is well developed. Complains of pain inch above umbilicus at times. Has vomiting of coffee ground and even pure blood. Has passages of large amount of black blood by bowel. When these attacks come on he feels very weak, and breaks out in cold sweats.
(Medical History of Invalid, Edmonton MCH, 26 Sept 1917)
Born on 14 February 1874 in Metcalfe, Ontario, Peter Edwin Bowen was a well-known Alberta hunter, trapper and marksman. An insurance broker in civilian life, Bowen also belonged to the 19th Alberta Dragoons. In August 1914, he enlisted as a captain in the 9th Battalion before transferring into the 2nd Battalion. While fighting at Langemarck during the second battle of Ypres on 23 April 1915, Bowen was shot in the head. Although he only suffered a scalp wounded, he was eventually forced from the field after the battle of Festubert in May due to nearly fatal gas poisoning.
While recovering in Canada, Bowen applied to raise a new battalion from Edmonton. As one of the city’s foremost sportsmen, he hoped to enlist elite athletes from the surrounding district. Concerned with the selecting the “best class” of volunteers, Bowen emphasized that he “wanted a clean Battalion and would take no foreigners, breeds of Indians.”
Despite receiving the highest praise from the Governor General and military authorities in Canada, the 202nd Battalion was broken up after arriving in England in November 1916. A medical board in Bramshott determined that, although Bowen’s condition had improved, he had not fully recovered from the gas exposure at Festubert nearly two years before.
He ran in the 1917 Alberta election but finished tenth out of twenty-one soldier candidates. After returning home on leave in summer 1917, Bowen suffered a serious relapse of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding due to lingering damage from the gas. Unable to eat or move because of persistent blood vomiting and “coal black stools,” Bowen remained extremely sick through early 1918 in an Edmonton convalescence hospital.
After the war, Bowen’s health improved and he returned to his previously active sportsman’s lifestyle. During the 1920s, he participated in military marksmanship and shooting competitions across the country. Between 1923 and 1927, he served as the commanding officer of the 19th Dragoons. In the 1935 federal election, he ran as the Conservative against fellow CEF colonel and Liberal contender George B. McLeod in the riding of Edmonton East. Both lost to a Social Credit candidate.
Bowen died on 21 October 1943 at the age of sixty-nine.
Digitized Service File (LAC):