A poignant tribute to a Sunderland father and two sons as commemorative stones will be laid at the Veterans' Walk

Sunderland is set to pay a permanent tribute to a heroic town father and his two brave sons.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 7:24 am
A tribute to three members of the Cowie family who were First World War heroes.

Commemorative stones will be laid at the Veterans’ Walk in memory of John, Henry and George Cowie.

Inside were letters and documents mostly relating to John and Henry who died as a result of action in the First World War.

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Rob Deverson with the stones for father John Cowie, son Henry Cowie and son George Cowie ready to be laid on the Veterans Walk.

Anne Ganley, the owner of Thompson Waste Centre at the Parade, Hendon ensured that the two men, and second son George who survived the war, would never be forgotten by organising a memorial service and laying a stone for them at Sunderland’s Veterans Walk.

Rob Deverson, Ops Director of the project commented: “This is such an incredible story of military records over 100 years old discovered on a demolition site!

"I am so pleased that the Cowie family has been suitably respected by the Ganley family whose team from Thompson Waste Disposal found the suitcase.

“They have generously paid for these stones to be included on the ever-growing National Veterans’ Walk in Mowbray Park. These will be laid in June this year and we will be taking orders for this phase until then - a chance for all the create their own Lasting Tribute To Proud Service.”

Heroes all. The soldiers on the left and centre are believed to be John and Henry Cowie.

The Cowie story goes back to 1914. Ellen Isabel Stephenson lived with her coal miner husband John Cowie and their eight children at Southwick Road, Sunderland.

A year later, as the documents reveal, Ellen had lost both her husband and son, Henry within days of each other.

Henry joined the 15th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry and the Soldier’s Small Book, given to each man was in the case.

He rose to the rank of Corporal but was killed in action ‘at a place unknown’ on September 16, 1915, aged 18. The official notification of his death, sent to his mother, was in the suitcase.

George Cowie's stone ready to be laid on the Veterans Walk.

Also found was a medal inscribed with his father, John Cowie’s name and the words, ‘he died for freedom and honour.’

Research commissioned by Anne was carried out by local historian Meg Hartford. It revealed that John died just 10 days after his son.

However, unlike Henry, John, made it back to England and died at a War Hospital, at Croydon, aged 51. Henry was buried in 1915 in Loos-en-Gohelle, France but John’s body was returned to Wearside and he was buried at Mere Knolls Cemetery.

The research also showed that a second son, George, also saw active duty, but survived the war.

John Cowie's stone.

He joined up at 18 in the closing months of the conflict. Among the papers in the suitcase is a letter signed by the then Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, thanking him for his service.

Rob said George ‘was mobilised to be a Gunner in Durham Royal Garrison Artillery based in Hartlepool.”

Anyone wanting to find out more about the Veterans’ Walk should visit https://www.nationalveteranswalk.co.uk/

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Henry Cowie's stone which is ready to be laid on the Veterans Walk.
George Cowie in his younger days.