Private Frank Cowburn

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Private Frank Cowburn

G/72390, 7th Bn.,The Queen’s(Royal West Surrey Regiment) who was killed in action on 18 September 1918, aged 19

Remembered with Honour

Vis-En-Artois Memorial Panel 3


Sheffield born coal miner, Jacob Cowburn, and Mary Haworth of Barlow, married in 1886. The couple lived in Barlow for the first years of their marriage with their son Ernest and eldest daughter Annie before moving to live at 5, Brickyard Terrace on the “Long Row” at Barrow Hill. It was in this 2 up-2 down terraced cottage at Barrow Hill that their children Edith (1892), Robert (1894), Ivy (1897) and FRANK COWBURN (1899) were born.

Frank was 2 years old when the family moved to live at 15, Alma Street at Brampton. His father and his 17 year old brother Ernest were both working as coal miners whilst his sister Annie was a pillbox capper at the Chesterfield firm of Robinsons – known locally as “Robbo’s”. The family increased with the birth of Arthur in 1903 and Harold in 1904.

In 1911, Mary was at home at 18, Riber Terrace in Chesterfield whilst Frank and his two younger brothers were still at school. Jacob was still working as a coal miner and Ernest had left home by this time. The other children were all in employment; Annie was an assistant wrapper at Walton Works, Edith was a Gauze and Bandage weaver, Robert was a rope boy in the pit and 14 year old Ivy was a mill hand at the cotton works.

Frank was working at Markham Colliery when he would have been “deemed to have enlisted” (conscripted) on his 18th birthday. Unfortunately, Frank’s service records have not survived and there is very little information about his service available. He was called up in April 1918 and joined the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbys Regiment) with the service number 105648. It is probable that this would have been with a Foresters training unit, after which he was posted to the 7th Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) as Private G/72390. The Queen’s was sometimes known as the Mutton Lancers, after their “Lamb and Flag” cap badge.

The 7th Bn., had been formed at Guildford in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s 2nd Army, under command of 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. Following training, Frank would have embarked for France to join his battalion on the Western Front.

British Commanders hoped to recapture Epehy from the Germans so that the area could be used to provide a position from which to attack the Hindenburg Line. The battle began early in the morning of September 18, 1918, with a creeping artillery barrage of approximately 1,500 guns, as well as 300 machine guns. The British flanks had difficulty advancing, in part because the promised French units failed to arrive.

It was on this day that Frank Cowburn was killed in action. According to his platoon commander:-  “He was killed on Sept. 18th by a shell bursting in the trench close to him, his death being instantaneous.”

Vis en Artois Memorial

Frank Cowburn is remembered on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial which bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and who have no known grave.

WW1-War-Victory-PairHe was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

© Ann Lucas