By Jim McTaggart
A NORTH-EAST miner who joined the Army at the age
of 17 and saw action all through the Second World War is being given a place in history thanks to his proud daughter.
Walter Cowans, from Ryton, near Gateshead, enlisted
in the Light Infantry Brigade at Newcastle in December 1938 and served in many overseas battle zones, as well as having a
spell in Stainton Camp, a barracks at Barnard Castle.
He never spoke of the war before he died in 1988,
but years later his daughter, Catherine, found his old Army number, 4453103, and used it to build up a dossier of what he
She quoted the number when she contacted an Army record
centre in Glasgow, the National Archives in Kew, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Ministry of Defence Medal Office in Gloucester and county
record office in Durham.
Ms Cowans said: “I got some details from all
of them until I could piece together dad’s full war record. He wasn’t a hero, but I’m proud of the way he
served his country.
“He was just an ordinary soldier like thousands
of others, but I’m glad that I have found out all about him and that the story of his service from 1939-45 will now
be preserved for all time.”
She has given a copy of her dossier to a project that
is compiling a full history of Stainton Camp and its part in the war.
“This is the first full record we have received
of an individual soldier, so it is important to us,” said Eileen O’Hara, the project leader.
“We will be delighted to include it in our report.
“Walter’s war effort will now be part
of our history.
His daughter has done a brilliant job. She has gone
to a lot of trouble to piece together his story.”
That story started on the day he signed on.
His papers show that he was just over 5ft 4in, weighed
7st 9lb, had a 32in waist and wore size six boots.
The records reveal that Private Cowans was sent to
Egypt with the Durham Light Infantry in 1940.
He suffered serious bullet wounds soon after arriving
there and spent weeks in hospital, before moving to Palestine in 1941.
Later that year he was in Syria and Tobruk. Hs spent most of 1942 in Egypt, where he was injured
in an accident and had another spell in hospital.
He went to Italy in 1943, was transferred to the Middle East early in 1944 and later that year went back to North Africa. He was promoted to
Lance Corporal that year but lost his stripe for being absent from duty.
He returned to Britain in 1945.
He was awarded the 1939- 45 Star, Italy Star, Africa Star, War Medal and Defence Medal before being demobbed. One commanding officer described him in a report
as an old soldier of the old school.
He later rejoined the Army for a spell, and again
was stationed at Stainton Camp, where he lived in married quarters with his wife, Lauren, and four children, of whom Catherine
was the eldest.
She now lives in Wales, but other relatives still live in the North-East.
Unfortunately, Walter disliked having his photograph
taken, so there are no pictures of him.