of our finest
Andy, Bowtell, Watson – SAE boats
recognise trio’s service
memory: Bill Watson, Peter Bowtell, Susan May, Mike Bowtell
and Kylie Russell in front of two of the boats named after
their loved ones. Photo by Bill Cunneen
THREE soldiers have been honoured with new Bridge Erection Propulsion
Boats (BEPBs) named after them to ensure their sacrifices in war
will not be forgotten.
They are Sgt Andy Russell, killed in Afghanistan in 2002; Cpl
Robert Bowtell, a “tunnel rat” who died in Vietnam in 1966; and
Maj Stanley Watson, who built Watson’s Pier at Gallipoli in 1915.
The BEPBs were launched by the families of the three men at a
ceremony conducted by the RAE Corps at SME at Moorebank on July
Col William Sowry, Commander Land Command Engineers, said the
names chosen for the new boats were a gesture by the RAE corps
to ensure the three men were remembered.
Col Sowry praised the heroism of the trio, saying they performed
their duty the best they could, knowing the sacrifice that they
may have to pay in the process.
“This is a small acknowledgment of the price they paid but it’s
the best that we can do to thank them for their noble sacrifice,”
He said the naming of the boats after the three men would educate
all future sappers about the deeds performed at Gallipoli, Vietnam
The three propulsion boats, which will help train Army engineers,
are called the Andy, after Sgt Russell, the Bowtell, after Cpl
Robert Bowtell, and the Watson, after Maj Watson. SME Chaplain
Capt Christine Digby blessed the boats.
SASR Sgt Andrew Russell died when an anti-tank mine left over
from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan exploded beneath his Land
Rover in February 2001.
The launch of the Andy was attended by his widow, Kylie, daughter
Leisa (born five days before his death) and his parents, Bob and
Jan. Kylie launched the boat from a Mack truck into the Georges
River while Bob Russell christened the boat with champagne.
“It’s a great honour for us all and when Leisa grows up the naming
of the boat will serve to enhance her appreciation of her father’s
sacrifice,” she said.
She said Andy, who served as an engineer before joining the SASR,
would be humbled by the gesture because he enjoyed boating.
“Andy won a zodiac boat as a door prize at the SASR 40th anniversary
dinner and we used to zoom around the Swan River whenever we had
time together,” she said.
Of the other two boats, one was launched in memory of Stan Watson,
of 1 Div Sigs Coy, who built Watson’s Pier at Gallipoli, which
was considered an engineering marvel. His grandson, Bob Watson,
said his grandfather would be pleased by the gesture.
“My grandfather was always very proud of his engineering achievements,
but he always thought that the job the signallers and engineers
did during the very successful evacuation of Anzac Cove was a
greater feat than the pier he built,” he said.
The remaining boat, the Bowtell, honours Cpl Robert (Guy) Bowtell,
of 3 Fd Tp (RAE), who died from asphyxiation while clearing Viet
Cong tunnels at Chu Chi in 1966 during the Vietnam War. His children,
Peter, Michael and Susan, and seven of his nine grandchildren
launched the vessel.
Also on hand was Col Alex (Sandy) MaGregor (ret’d), former CO
of 3 Fd Tp, who as a captain commanded the search of the tunnels
at Chu Chi, known as the Viet Cong’s Iron Triangle.
Susan May was only two-years old when her father was reported
killed in action in Vietnam.
“It was a huge loss to the family when dad died but today’s ceremony
and the dedication is a great source of pride to us all,” she
Col MaGregor said Cpl Bowtell would be happy to be remembered
with a boat named after him. He also noted that one of the three
IET troops at SME is named Bowtell.
Twenty-four BEPBs have been produced under a $15m DMO project
completed on budget and on time. The BEPBs replace the Bridge
Erection Boats, which were introduced into service in 1969 and
are no longer supportable. The aim of the BEPB is to act as a
propulsion system for the Floating Support Bridge in the raft
configuration and as thrust anchorages in the bridge configuration.