Saturday, June 25, 2011

A special touch to a special week

Leo and Mary Smith of Little Clifton, Workington, Cumbria
At the RAF Squadronaires "Glenn Miller" concert
Whitehaven Festival, Sunday 19 June 2011

This event was held on a special day in a special week for Leo and Mary.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Introduction

Leo Smith of Little Clifton, Workington served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders during WW2. Leo's service took him to both N.W. Europe and the Far East (Burma). On Sunday 19 June 2011 Leo and his dear wife Mary attended the "Veterans' Freedom Parade" and the RAF Squadronaires concert at Whitehaven Festival.

For Leo and Mary this event on this day was a special touch to a special week. Two days later - on Tuesday 21 June 2011 - it was their Diamond Wedding Anniversary!

(2) Wartime service details

2381287, Joseph Leo SMITH (Bombardier, later Corporal)

Served with:
5th Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders,
91st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery.

N.W. Europe, Far East

Motto of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders:
"Sans Peur" ("Without Fear")

Leo landed in Normandy at Gold Beach (Arromanches) on June 26, 1944 (D+20). In Normandy, the 5th Battalion of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders were part of the 91st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (A&SH) (TA). During the Battle of Normandy the 5th A&SH supported a large number of units and formations from the 20th June 1944 onwards. In particular, they supported the 15th Scottish Division.

After the breakout from Normandy Leo and the 5th Battalion continued supporting the 15th Scottish Division for the remainder of hostilities in N.W. Europe. They saw action in Belgium, the areas around the River Maas, the Reichswald and the River Rhine. Its many actions are commemorated by the Royal Artillery Battle Honour "Ubique" (i.e. "Everywhere").

Later in the war Leo, who lives at Springfield, Little Clifton, Workington, transferred to the Royal Artillery and went to Burma for a time. Leo was demobbed from wartime military service in 1946 while still out in the Far East. After his 'demob' Leo worked for a time as a mechanic. Later, after getting married Leo and Mary ran a caravan park between Workington and Cockermouth (Cumbria).

(3) Leo's second 'longest day'

It was also during WW2 that a mutual friend first introduced Leo to the then Miss Mary Cowman who worked at Miller's Shoe factory, Cockermouth. They met up again after Leo was demobbed from the army and married at Brigham near Cockermouth.

The date of Mary and Leo's wedding was - appropriately enough for a bridegroom who was a Normandy veteran - the 'longest day' of the year, namely the Northern Hemisphere summer solstice, 21 June. The exact date the wedding bells rang out for Mary and Leo was 21 June 1951. This second 'longest day' of Leo's would be one that would provide him with happier memories than the long days in Normandy!

On Sunday 19 June 2011 Mary and Leo attended the 'Freedom Parade' at the Whitehaven Festival and the concert given by the RAF Squadronaires immediately afterwards. For Mary and Leo this was an extra-special touch to a special week. The parade and concert came just two days before their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

On the actual day of their Diamond Wedding anniversary, which they celebrated with their family, Mary and Leo received a congratulatory card from H.M. Queen Elizabeth. The secret of a happy marriage: "To take care of each other and enjoy every day". These are indeed wise words!

Saturday, 25 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(4) William Amos Cowman (Border Regiment)

The medals Mary can be seen wearing in the photograph above are those of her father: Private William Amos Cowman (Border Regiment) who served in the army in WW1. Mary should be rightly proud to wear William's medals as he endured a particularly hard time as a POW in the last months of the war. Although William served in WW1 a brief summary of this is given here.

William Amos Cowman was born at the village of Sandwith near Whitehaven on 6 July 1898, the son of John Cowman and Loo Cowman (nee Wilson). William was baptised at Christ Church, Whitehaven (Church of England) by Reverend George Needham on 4 August 1898. The day of William's baptism was exactly 16 years before Britain's declaration of war against Germany on 4 August 1914. William's father, John, had passed away in early 1914, and his mother re-married in 1916, to another Sandwith villager, John Hinchcliffe.

In the early part of the war William went to work as a farm labourer in the Wigton District about 30 miles / 50 kms from his home village of Sandwith. Then, on 26 May 1917, William A. Cowman enlisted with the Border Regiment (service number 34435). A few months later he was serving in France on the Western Front. During the German spring offensive of April 1918 William's family received word that he was "Missing in action" (subsequently "Missing presumed killed").

Initially there was no definite word either that William had been killed, wounded or captured. While definite news one way or another was received about some of those he had been serving with, William's true fate was unknown to his family and friends. Yet, despite remaining hopeful, things did not look too good.

Saturday, 25 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

William's mother received a letter from one of William's pals who had been serving with him in France. This was reported in 'The Whitehaven News' of Thursday 25 April 1918 in this way:


Mrs Hinchcliffe, wife of Mr J. Hinchcliffe of Sandwith has received the following letter from Private Harper referring to her son, William Cowman, of the Border Regiment. Private Cowman had just turned 19 and joined the Army about twelve months ago. He has been in France about nine months. He was a farm labourer in the Wigton district before joining up.

'Dear Mrs Hinchcliffe,

'Just a few lines to send you my deepest sympathy about my dear pal William. You will, no doubt, have heard from the battalion by this time.

It was a week before the great offensive started that I saw William, and when they told me he was missing it nearly broke my heart, and I sincerely hope for the sake of his dear mother he will come back to us again. There were a lot of our lads taken prisoners, including a few officers, and he might easily be with them, and if he is with the boys I think he will be quite all right.

Don't worry too much, as one can't do any good by it. Just trust to Providence, and hope for the best. I think that is all I can say, and as William was my best pal, I once again send you my deepest sympathy.

I am, your true friend,

Private W.B. HARPER.
Border Regiment,

Private Harper is a grandson of the late Mr W.S. Harper of the 'Cumberland Pacquet'. Mrs Hinchcliffe is without any news from the War Office, and is exceedingly anxious to hear from them. Inquiries have been made through the Red Cross, but they say Private Cowman's name does not appear in the official list of British prisoners furnished by the German authorities."
('Whitehaven News', 25 April 1918, p.8)

A few weeks later, on Thursday 16 May 1918, the Carlisle Citizens' League managed to obtain a long list of over 100 Border Regiment men who were prisoners of war. One of these names was that of 34435 Private William Amos Cowman from Sandwith. He was being held a prisoner of war at Limburg. In the circumstances, this was good news indeed. After a few months of deprivations as a POW of the Germans, William was eventually able to return home as a free man after the Armistice was signed in November 1918.

The hard-won medals awarded to William for his WW1 service were the ones proudly worn by his daughter Mary at the 'Freedom Parade' at Whitehaven on 19 June 2011. This was just one more special touch one calls to mind on a special day for Mary and Leo.

Monday, 27 June, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(5) Further reading

To read the BBC "People's War" article about Leo (which has another photograph of Leo and Mary):

Click here (1).

To read the local newspaper report about Mary and Leo's 60th wedding anniversary (which also has additional photographs of Leo and Mary):

Click here (2).

After WW1 the village school in William Cowman's home village of Sandwith compiled a 'Roll of Honour' of former pupils who had served in the Armed Forces during the 1914 - 1918 war. After the school closed this memorial went 'missing' for several years, eventually being rediscovered at the nearby St Bees Parish Church.

To read about the disappearance, re-discovery and re-dedication of the Sandwith Village School 'Roll of Honour', which includes William Cowman's name:

Click here (3).

To read a letter sent to 'The Whitehaven News' by the writer of this article about William Cowman and the 'lost' Sandwith School memorial:

Click here (4).

(NB: Mr Jim Marshall of Sandwith who re-discovered the Sanwith School WW1 memorial was subsequently ordained as a Minister in the Church of England and was appointed priest of the Lamplugh with Ennerdale parishes. Reverend Jim Marshall has since assisted the writer of this article in researching some of the war casualties interred at Lamplugh and Ennerdale parishes).

Monday, 27 June, 2011  
Anonymous Tom Brownlee said...


I wonder if you may remember my Grandad Cpl James Brownlee? He was in the A&SH 5th Batallion. I would love to hear from you if you do.


Saturday, 29 September, 2012  
Anonymous Paul Marsh said...

Interesting story. My grandmother, Mary Marsh (nee Cowman) was William Amos Cowman's sister.

Paul Marsh
London, Ontario, Canada

Friday, 24 January, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Paul Marsh.
Pleased you have read this story. I am William Cowman's grand daughter. My mother Mary was very pleased to hear of your interest. She used to write to Mary Marsh your grandmother & then to Audrey Marsh until her death. Was Audrey your mother?
Jennifer Walker

Monday, 11 August, 2014  

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