Author's pride in her DLI grandad's war heroics

The story of an chaplain who became a wartime hero has been told in a new book written by his own granddaughter.

Friday, 28th October 2016, 10:57 am
Updated Monday, 31st October 2016, 9:55 am
A portrait taken after 1915.

The Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl volunteered as an Army Chaplain at Christmas 1914. He was assigned to the Durham Light Infantry and the Northumberland Fusiliers.

He was attached to the 68th Brigade where he looked after the men of the 12th and 13th Battalions of the DLI in 1915.

He was affectionately known to family as The Half-Shilling Curate and saw his overseas service cut short when he was severely wounded during a heavy bombardment at the front line.

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Sarah Reay.

He came home to England in a cot bed aboard the hospital ship Anglia but she hit a German mine in the English Channel. While recovering, he was awarded the Military Cross for exemplary gallantry.

Now, 100 years on, his granddaughter Sarah Reay is paying tribute by publishing his personal letters and writings. The book is called The Half-Shilling Curate. A Personal Account of War and Faith 1914-18 and Sarah, 50, said: “My father, Michael Cowl encouraged me to nurture an inquisitive interest in history from an early age.

“I’ve flown a First World War Tiger Moth and visited the sombre graves of those fallen in battle – spending years researching in locations across France, Belgium and England to become a self-taught historian. As a Christian, I became engrossed in my grandfather’s unique and intriguing tale of war and faith, which I have recounted in The Half-Shilling Curate.”

The book, published by Helion & Company Ltd, was officially launched yesterday.

Rev Herbert Butler Cowl.

Sarah’s grandfather was a Methodist minister after the Great War and remained “a spiritual man to the end of his life in 1971.”

She added: “I am immensely proud of my grandfather’s story, and to have been able to pay tribute to him in my book.”

To find out more, visit

The book cover.
Sarah Reay.
Rev Herbert Butler Cowl.
The book cover.