BORN 12TH MAY 1894



22ND JULY 1918 AGE 24


This is not all its says on Eric Bowden's headstone; his inscription runs to 140 characters, more than twice the War Graves Commission's recommended limit (and with the link, more than Twitter will allow, which is why I've only included part of it in the Tweet):

Promoted on the
Field of action
From 2nd Lieutenant
He was one of the
Youngest colonels in
The British Army
"He has at all times
Set a fine example"

'Promoted on the field of action', this means that Eric Bowden did not return to Britain to pass an exam before achieving his promotion, it was granted to him whilst at the Front. It was undoubtedly a mark great confidence in your abilities and something for Bowden's mother, who chose his inscription, to be proud of, as she undoubtedly was.
Bowden was indeed one of the youngest colonels in the British army, although at 23, John Hardyman, the subject of yesterday's epitaph, was younger. However, it's not quite accurate to say that Bowden was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel. At the time of his death Bowden was a major. The battalion war diary for 23 July 1918, not the 22nd as his headstone claims was the date of his death, reports that "Major E.G. Bowden MC [was] killed about 12 noon riding through Steenvoorde".
How could Mrs Bowden claim that her son had been promoted straight from 2nd Lieutenant? I'm not absolutely clear on this issue but I would suggest that perhaps all Bowden's promotions had been to acting ranks. I can see that in February 1917 he had been promoted from an acting Major to a temporary Major. It would seem that sometime close to his death he must have been promoted acting or temporary Lieutenant Colonel.
This was something the army did to ensure that once the war was over, or circumstances in some way changed, it didn't have too many officers for its needs. It was an emotionally controversial subject as seen when the subject of recognizing promotion in the field was brought up in a debate on the Army Act in the Australian Parliament on 18 September 1917: "surely these men had passed the toughest examination in being promoted at the front"; "there is no man more deserving of consideration than he who has won his spurs and has been promoted on the field of battle"; "all civilized countries, with the exception of Germany, recognise the principle that where men are promoted for deeds of gallantry on the field, they should not be required to undergo any examination"; "a man who has been promoted on the field of battle, and in a school of instruction behind the lines, has received all the training necessary to make him a leader of men, and has a perfect right to retain the rank he has won overseas".
The problem never arose for Eric Bowden and for so many men like him, they died before they returned home and therefore took their acting ranks with them to the grave.
When Mrs Ellen Bowden filled in the Family Verification Form she said that her husband was dead. George Howlett Bowden died in 1934. This shows how long it took to construct the war cemeteries. The Bowdens had had two children, two sons. Percy Leslie Bowden, Eric elder brother died at the age of 21 in 1910.