RFA West Lancs Bdes
681286 Gnr Thomas Cowling MM, R.F.A.
Thomas Cowling was born on 4 May 1890 in Chorley. His father was John Cowling (b. 1852 in Chorley), a cloth looker in a cotton mill. His mother was Sarah Hannah Taylor (b. 1861 in Chorley). John and Sarah were married in 1889 and they had five children, though two died young. The surviving boys were Tom, John (b. 1892) and James (b. 1894). In 1911, the family was living at 171 Eaves Lane, Chorley. Tom was a cotton weaver but his brothers were both clerks – John for a cotton mill, and James for a solicitor. All three boys would serve in the Artillery and all three survived the War.
Tom’s service number was 681286, indicating that he probably enlisted in 1915 and served with 286 Brigade. The announcement of his Military Medal was made in October 1918, suggesting that the action for which he was awarded the medal came during the German Spring Offensive that year. A number of men who were recruited around the same time as Tom (from their service numbers) were subsequently transferred to units of the Regular Army and given new numbers. Tom’s new number was 290252 but I don’t know what the reason for this transfer was. Tom survived the War and returned to Chorley where he had a grocer’s and baker’s shop at 39 Brooke Street. In 1927, Tom married Edith Parker (b. 1891 in Chorley) but she died in 1933 and I don’t think they had any children. Tom died in 1968.
John Taylor Cowling also served in the Artillery and more of his papers have survived so we can be more certain about his service record. He was born on 18 February 1892 and he enlisted on 13 March 1915. He was given service number 3629 and would eventually be promoted to Corporal. He was first posted to 148th Brigade but then transferred to “C” Battery of 165th Brigade. This Brigade came under orders of 31st Division. From 11 December 1915 to 5 March 1916, the Division was engaged in Egypt in the defence of the Suez Canal, but they then moved to France for the rest of the War. They fought in the opening phases of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and then had relatively light duties in 1917, but faced severe fighting throughout 1918, during both opening phases of the German Spring Offensive and then through the 100 Days’ Offensive right up to the end of the War. John was discharged in 1919 and he returned to Chorley where he lived at 10 Millfield Road and worked as a clothing manufacturer’s agent. In 1934, he married Ethel Walker (b. 1907 in Foulridge, near Colne) and they had a son, David. John died in 1969.
James Cowling was born on 15 August 1894. He is probably 88399 Gunner James Cowley, R.F.A. who landed in France on 10 September 1915 and who survived the War. But I don’t know which Brigade he served with. In the late 1920s he married Kathleen Markham (b. 1888), and they had a son, John. James was a clothing manufacturer’s agent, like his brother. He died in 1970.