Cowan, Gerard Henderson (Lieutenant, b.1895-d.1919)
Collection relating to the First World War service of 6733 Lieutenant Gerard Henderson Cowan, 2 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, Australia, England and France, 1895-1919.
Wallet 1 of 5 consists of two folders of letters written by Lieutenant Gerard Henderson Cowan.
Wallet 1 of 5, Folder 1 of 2 contains 18 letters from Lieutenant Cowan to his family, dated between c. July 1916 and 13 December 1917. In his letters, Cowan describes his experiences of serving abroad. Some of these experiences include his embarkation, the journey across the Indian Ocean, stopping in South Africa and Sierra Leone and sightseeing on shore, being on the watch for German submarines, receiving a “Christmas billy”, and disembarking in England. Cowan then writes about his struggles with the very cold English weather, living at a training camp, getting mumps, sightseeing at nearby villages and London during his time off, visiting English family members, serving in France, being wounded and sent to hospital in England, and attending signalling school after his recovery.
Wallet 1 of 5, Folder 2 of 2 contains 29 letters from Lieutenant Cowan to his family, dated between c. February 1918 and 24 January 1919. In his letters, Cowan describes his experiences of serving abroad. Some of these experiences include being transferred from the 11 Australian Infantry Battalion to the Australian Flying Corps, taking part in flying training and exams, receiving instruction in machine guns, practicing turns and landings, visiting English family members, doing his first solo flights, poor weather for flying, sightseeing in nearby villages, and going to serve in France again, this time as a pilot.
Wallet 2 of 5 consists of three folders of correspondence relating to Lieutenant Gerard Henderson Cowan.
Wallet 2 of 5, Folder 1 of 3 contains 11 letters relating to Lieutenant Cowan, dated between 3 June 1916 and 16 June 1918. Three letters concern Lieutenant Cowan’s appointment to the Australian Flying Corps. The remainder of the letters were written to Lieutenant Cowan by various family members during his period of service in England.
Wallet 2 of 5, Folder 2 of 3 contains four telegraphs between various family members relating to the illness and death of Lieutenant Cowan in 1919.
Wallet 2 of 5, Folder 3 of 3 contains six condolence letters relating to the death of Lieutenant Cowan. The letters, dated between 24 February and 8 December 1919, were written to Lieutenant Cowan’s parents by friends and fellow servicemen.
Wallet 3 of 5 consists of two folders of documents relating to the life, service, and death of Lieutenant Cowan.
Wallet 3 of 5, Folder 1 of 2 contains 16 documents relating to the life and service of Lieutenant Cowan. Some of these documents include a baptism card, leave passes, a record of clothing issued, a ration book, a map of London, a signed Australian Flying Corps dinner menu, a concert program, and photographs.
Wallet 3 of 5, Folder 2 of 2 contains 14 documents relating to the death of Lieutenant Cowan. These documents relate to the pay, belongings, burial and commission of Lieutenant Cowan.
Wallet 4 of 5 consists of five diaries of Lieutenant Cowan.
Diary 1 of 5 was written by Cowan between 11 and 28 November 1916. It contains details of his embarkation aboard the HMAS Argyleshire. Some of his experiences included sea sickness, spectating sports matches, physical training, regular parades and drills, seeing interesting marine life, attending a concert, being on guard duty, sleeping on deck, and sightseeing at Durban, South Africa. The last entry in this diary ends abruptly, but is continued Cowan’s next diary. This diary also contains a list of men in Number 1 Mess on the HMAS Argyleshire, of which Cowan was a part.
Diary 2 of 5 was written by Cowan between 29 November 1916 and 11 January 1917. It contains details of his voyage to England aboard the HMAS Argyleshire. Cowan records experiences such as going ashore at Cape Town, South Africa, doing physical training, learning Morse code and French, attending YMCA services, seeing interesting marine life, doing laundry, attending concerts and sports events, fatigue duties, landing at Sierra Leone and his impressions of Freetown, encounters with other ships, being on submarine guard, rations becoming poorer in quality, encounters with rats, and disembarkation at Plymouth, England. This diary also contains a section of notes on Morse code and French language.
Diary 3 of 5 was written by Cowan between 12 January and 26 April 1917. It contains details of his service in England. Cowan records experiences such as his struggle with the cold, muddy weather, attending lessons, drills and exams, seeing aeroplanes overhead, doing laundry, performing fatigue duty, poor army rations, sightseeing at nearby villages during his time off, visiting English family members, a water pipe bursting in his hut and the water freezing on the floor, bayonet exercises, snowball fights, a friend’s funeral, getting mumps and spending time in hospital, asking a civilian to buy him a train ticket, attending a musketry school, and doing well in his tests.
Diary 4 of 5 was written by Cowan between 10 September and 3 November 1917. It contains details of his service after being wounded on the Western Front. Cowan records experiences such as being carried from an ambulance to a hospital ship, landing at Dover, England, travelling on a train during an air raid, convalescing in hospitals where he received good treatment but poor food, attending a concert for wounded soldiers, sightseeing in nearby villages, and visiting English family members. The last entry in this diary ends abruptly, but is continued Cowan’s next diary.
Diary 5 of 5 was written by Cowan between 3 November 1917 and 13 January 1918. It contains details of his service in England. Cowan records experiences such as travelling and visiting English family members while on leave, women of his acquaintance doing war work, hiring a bike to see the country, returning to camp and continuing training, applying to transfer to the Australian Flying Corps (A.F.C.), applying to a signalling school and being accepted, seeing a popular concert party, spending time with his friends at the YMCA, making progress with signalling training, making friends with a local school headmaster, feeling unwell, receiving letters from home, and continuing his application to the A.F.C.
Wallet 5 of 5 consists of five items relating to Lieutenant Cowan’s service in the Australian Flying Corps. It contains one training notebook, used by Cowan in 1917-1918 while he was in Signalling Training School, and later the Australian Flying Corps. It contains notes on Morse code, tips for good signalling, forms and how to use them, different roles within a signalling team and their duties, electricity, magnetism, telephones, map reading, and navigation using a compass. This notebook also contains diary entries that Cowan wrote between 24 September and 17 October 1918. In his entries, Cowan records experiences such as frequently being unable to fly due to poor weather, completing cross country flights, being complemented on a fancy landing, visiting an English family member, beginning at the School of Aerial Fighting, training on machine guns, and completing exams. This wallet also contains one flying log book, containing entries dated between 1 June 1918 and 15 January 1919, two Royal Air Force Training Transfer Cards, and one publication “Notes on Aerial Fighting”.
- Letters of Gerard Henderson Cowan, 1916-1917
- Letters of Gerard Henderson Cowan, 1918-1919
- Papers relating to Gerard Henderson Cowan, 1895-1919
- Letters and papers relating to the death of Gerard Henderson Cowan, 1919-1920
- Diary of Gerard Henderson Cowan, November 1916
- Diary of Gerard Henderson Cowan, November 1916 - January 1917
- Diary of Gerard Henderson Cowan, January - April 1917
- Diary of Gerard Henderson Cowan, September- November 1917
- Diary of Gerard Henderson Cowan, November 1917 - January 1918
- Notebook of Gerard Henderson Cowan
- Log book of Gerard Henderson Cowan