Sergeant Francis William Owens was born in Narromine New South Wales. He was a farmer and son of the late Francis Owens, grazier, of Owendale Narromine. He had previously served for eleven years as Sergeant in the Permanent Artillery. He enlisted at South Head as a gunner on 5 June 1915 at the age of twenty-eight. His wife Mrs Kathleen Owens was recorded as his next of kin. At the time of his enlistment they were residing in Blaxcell Street Granville.
He embarked on 17 July 1915 to serve in France with the Siege Brigade Australian Imperial Force. He was appointed Bombardier on 15 July 1915. His service and casualty form includes an entry that Bombardier Owens was admonished and forfeited one day’s pay for being absent without leave on 31 August 1915. However this proved to be a minor blemish. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on 16 December 1916. On 19 March 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The following citation was published in the London Gazette Fourth Supplement Number 30172, 6 June 1917, at page 6822 and in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, Number 189 of 8 November 1917, at page 2936:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has consistently done good work throughout, and under fire has at all times set a splendid example.
Notice of his award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was published in the Cumberland Argus of 18 May 1918, at page 10. Sergeant Owens was promoted to the rank of Battery Quartermaster Sergeant on 9 December 1918 and was relocated to the 36 Australian Heavy Artillery Group. In late January 1919 he was injured accidentally in the right shoulder (laceration to the shoulder) and admitted to King George Hospital in London England. He returned to Australia in April 1919.
The Cumberland Argus published news of the return to Australia of RQMS (Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant) Francis W Owens in its edition of 3 June 1919, at page 4. The article includes mention of his Distinguished Conduct Medal and that “during his four years’ service escaped with a slight gassing and frost bitten feet.” Sergeant Owens was also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He and his wife subsequently returned to live in Narromine New South Wales.
Janet Britton, Volunteer Research Assistant, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2016