Unique items of First World War history belonging to Sunderland father and so set to go on display

A unique piece of Sunderland’s First World War history will go on display for the first time this week.

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 12:53 pm

A fascinating collection of items charting the sad story of a Sunderland father and son who lost their lives in The Great War was found in an old suitcase which was rescued from a skip by eagle-eyed staff at Thompson Waste Centre after a house clearance .

A new exhibition at Sunderland Fans’ Museum showcasing the unique items which belonged to the family of John Cowie and his son Henry, will open on Thursday, November 11 – Remembrance Day.

Dozens of postcards from across the years, the Soldier’s Black Book which was issued to military personnel at the time and the letter which was sent to inform the family that their loved ones had been killed, are among the many items which will be on show.

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John and Henry died within days of each in 1915, but their family had kept all their documents safely, until they ended up in the skip last year.

Anne Ganley, owner of Thompson Waste Centre, organised a stone for the pair to be laid at Sunderland’s Veterans Walk and has funded the creation of the exhibition, with the space loaned by the fan museum at Monkwearmouth.

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“These amazing items could so easily have been lost,” she said.

Anne Ganley with the suitcase

“We were so lucky to find them and they now need to be preserved for future generations, along with ensuring that these brave men are not forgotten.”

Anne also made a donation to a local history organisation to carry out some research about the men and their family, to build up a real picture of their past.

“There couldn’t be a better day to unveil these amazing artefacts,” said Anne.

Museum founder Michael Ganley said the team were very excited “to be able to house such an important part of World War I history.”

A photo of George Cowie in his younger days

“This is not only significant in world history but the fact that the family were from Southwick, an area I lived in as a child, makes it extra important to us,” he said.

The exhibition will run until November 30.

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A medal found in the case

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The soldiers on the left and centre are believed to be John and Henry Cowie
One of the letters in the collection