When you look out on the grand vista of the Coxs River valley where it is crossed by Bowtells swing bridge, its hard not to think of the stark contrast to Bob Bowtells terrible death underground in Vietnam.
The 33-year-old Katoomba engineer and tunnel rat, Corporal Robert Walter Bowtell, died in poisonous gas in the underground labyrinth of a Viet Cong tunnel in South Vietnam, while on duty with the 3rd Field Troop of Royal Australian Engineers.
A 45 kg young sapper, Alan Sparrow Christie, had the job of trying to rescue his much larger superior and passed out in the process. The mans death still haunts him 50 years on.
As he told the Gazette recently: The death of Bob Bowtell was the most traumatic event that I ever experienced in my entire lifetime.
Even though I spent another nine months on operations in Vietnam, where I went through many incidents and engagements, nothing had the effect on me other than what I considered my failure to rescue Bob from that tunnel.
Third Field Troop Engineers broke into the tunnel complex and was in the process of thoroughly exploring it and recovering as much weaponry, ammunition, stores and intelligence as possible
As new entrances were discovered, engineers were called to investigate and at the end of the day tear gas and smoke grenades were thrown down in the hope no one would emerge at night inside our defensive perimeter.
By all accounts Bob Bowtell was happy to lead from the front and had forced himself through a tiny concrete trapdoor.
The practice of throwing tear gas and smoke grenades into other tunnel entrances, especially smoke grenades as it burns all the oxygen in the air, had come back to haunt us. Bob had lost consciousness due to the lack of oxygen in the air, Mr Christie said.
Peter Ash and myself were sent to try and recover him but his larger body frame would not allow us to pull him through the tiny trapdoor both Peter and myself also succumbed to the lack of oxygen and had to be pulled out unconscious.
Ultimately a shaft was dug beside the tunnel by hand and Bobs body recovered.
Mr Christie has battled depression and alcohol abuse but said his salvation came in 1976 when Trevor Shelley, another old tunnel rat from Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand days asked me to go to the Highlands of New Guinea to build roads.
Over the years I found myself building things in New Guinea, Solomon Island and Western Australia instead of destroying them.
Mr Christie recently met with Corporal Bowtells children from the Central West during the Richmond RAAF base ramp ceremony when Bowtells remains, and those of 32 other veterans and dependants, were finally returned to Australia on June 2 this year. Mr Christie said he owed the family special thanks for making the time to find me and ultimately help me putting my ghosts and fears to rest.
Corporal Bowtell is remembered at the Lawson War Memorial and will be honoured in a Welcome Home service [with Private Ron Field] on August 13 at the memorial in Honour Avenue, starting at 11am.