WW2 relics at Stainton Grove Military Camp, Barnard Castle, DL12 8UJ, UK

People who were here - Walter Cowans and family

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Proud daughter tracks down dad’s war record   

8:30am Thursday 4th June 2009

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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 did.

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.

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The Ryton and District War Memorials Project

 

The project is dedicated to the memory of those men and women from the former Ryton Urban District Council area (the villages of Clara Vale, Crawcrook, Greenside, Ryton, Stargate and Addison) who lost their lives whilst serving in the armed forces, or were killed by enemy action, during the conflicts of the twentieth century.

 

 

 

Michael Hardy is at present compiling profiles for the project of those men and women  from the Ryton on Tyne area who served in whatever capacity during both World Wars and who returned home. Catherine's father Walter falls into this category because of his connection with Ryton on Tyne.

click here to go to the website

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Our heritage is who we are today; we are the only ones who can protect it.

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The Memories of Stainton Grove Military Camp Project was one of a number of community-led projects along and nearby the route of the proposed South West Durham Heritage Corridor. 

 

The South West Durham Heritage Corridor will be a multi-user route along the former Bishop Auckland to Barnard Castle railway line. 

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Share your memories with us!  We want to make a record of life here before it is too late.  Please get in touch.  All your memories are important to us.

click here to contact us

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The Memories of Stainton Grove Military Camp Project is being led by Stainton Grove Community Association and coordinated by Groundwork West Durham and Darlington. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the 'Your Heritage' grant programme.

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click to go to warlinks