By Deb Morris
Tomorrow, on Anzac Day, all over New Zealand people will be remembering those who fought for them in wars.
Most of them weren’t celebrated as war heroes. They were men and women who became our everyday heroes by doing their best against an evil threatening the Western world. Bruce Fowke was one.
Bruce was born January 19, 1915 in Dannevirke, the son of Herbert Fowke and Margaret Fowke, called Marwa, (nee Batten). His parents later moved to Pahiatua. His mother is in Dannevirke Cemetery and his father in Ashburton.
Of the records available, Bruce had two siblings - a sister called Ngaire who died young in 1919 and Bettie Russell (nee Fowke).
He enlisted in the NZ Army giving the address as Sedcole St, Pahiatua. He was listed as a painter.
He had married, and his wife Cicely May Helen Fowke (nee King) - known as Helen - later listed an address in Willow Park Road in Hastings.
Bruce joined the infantry of 22 Battalion of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in 1941.
He died on December 15, 1944, aged 29, in battle as a sergeant.
In December that year he and the others were arrayed on the banks of the river Lamone. At the top of a rise in sight of the men was the Casa Elta - a pocket fortress with much of the area held by the Germans.
In the book 22 Battalion by Jim Henderson, he said the advance of Casa Elta was costly. All the leaders of 15 platoon were killed or wounded, and Bruce - then a Sergeant - took control. HIs nickname in the platoon was Doc.
But as they advanced he, and the platoon’s other sergeant, fell in a minefield.
The leaderless platoon went on to the right of Casa Elta, captured two defended positions and eight prisoners, severed telephone wires, which isolated Casa Elta, and later joined the last assault on the house.
Bruce is also mentioned in the book "Cowshed to Dog Collar (in conjunction with Rona Adshead) by Keith Elliott VC ,
"And what of "Doc" Fowke who refused to turn aside from his helpless best friend and did what he could for his mates until he was the only one left alive in that trench? No greater love hath a man than this …”
Bruce was buried - and later exhumed - to be reburied in the Forli Cemetery in Italy.
He exists now on 22 Battalion’s roll of honour, on the Pahiatua war memorial also on Palmerston North’s.
He was also my grandmother’s beloved cousin. His mother Margaret was sister to Myrtle Irene Batten - later Drinkwater, my grandmother’s mother.
Rest in Peace Bruce, like all the other everyday heroes, we remember you.