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Cowan John Arpin Allin

The 1901 Census on Ancestry.co.uk shows us that the Cowan family were living in Toronto West, Canada in the province of Ontario.

The family consisted of Head Arthur William Cowan age 37 born 1st April 1864 in Ontario of Irish descent he was an Expressman by trade. His wife is shown as Harriet age 32 born 19th December 1866 in England having emigrated in 1872 and their children, John age 9 born 23rd November 1891 in Toronto, Lillian age 7 born 9th December 1893 in Ontario, Robert age 5 born 24th May 1895 in Ontario, Charlotte E. age 4 born 1st September 1896 in Ontario and Arthur F. age 1 born 3rd December 1899 in Ontario.

Ten years on the 1911 Census shows that the Cowan family are living 51 Foxley Street, in Ward 5 Toronto West. The Head of the family is now Harriet Cowan, Widow age 62. John Cowan is 19 and a Teamster by trade. There are three additions to the family, Adelaide age 9 born July 1901, Harold age 8 born March 1903  and Willimone age 5 born December 1905. All the older siblings were still living at home.

Arthur William Cowan died age 41 on 7th October 1905.

The following information was supplied by Kimberly Evans a relative of John. (brother Frederick’s Grand daughter)

His grandparents emigrated to Canada from Ireland.  His paternal grandfather Robert Cowan fought against the Fenians.  Robert was a boot and shoemaker – had a shop on Queen Street, Toronto.  His father Arthur William Cowan joined the Northwest Mounted Police until he injured his leg in a logging accident.  Then ran a cartage business in Toronto (which I believed included mail delivery) until he was kicked in the stomach by a sick horse he was tending and died several days later.

Library and Archives of Canada  Service Files of 1st WW 1914-1918.

Attestation Papers for Sapper 164645 John Arpin Allin Cowan.

John Arpin Allin Cowan enlisted into the 84th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionery Force  on 27th October 1915 in Toronto, he gave his trade as Steamfitter, his next of kin as his Mother Harriet Cowan of 51 Foxley St, Toronto, Ontario, and stated that he had served for 8 months with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regiment based at Moss Park Armoury, Toronto.

He embarked on 18th June 1916 onboard the S.S. Empress of Britain.

On arrival John was transferred to the 75th Battalion, Canadian Infantry and posted to Bramshott Camp, Hampshire.

The following text is from The Hampshire History Website.

The WWI camp was established on the heathland between Bramshott and Liphook, row upon row of wooden huts for the men to sleep in, a hospital and open air theatre and stage. The camp was serviced from a line of hastily erected corrugated iron huts which kept the camp well provided for all its various needs, with a cafe, bank, shop, cinema and various other entertainments. All quite astonishing when you think of it all spread along the A3 main road opposite where the ruin of the Spaniard Inn still stands. This section of road now sadly depleted of the maple trees that were planted all down the centre remind us of a time when this part of Hampshire was home to thousands of Canadians.

South Camp Hospital

A large hospital was opened at Bramshott, caring for those soldiers who were sick, succumbing to changes in climate and exposure to different viruses and bacteria. The war wounded also were brought here to be tended. Sadly many of the soldiers having survived the war fell victim to the Spanish flu pandemic that unleashed itself in 1918. The church yard at Bramshott became the final resting place of many of these casualties.

Remembered inside the church of St Mary the Virgin

Some battalions rested their colours in the church when they left for France and at the rear of the nave hangs the Canadian Red Ensign, last flown over Camp Huron in 1946 along with a Canadian Veterans banner.

The three stained glass windows above the alter are beautifully created, commemorating the thousands of troops from two world wars who camped in Bramshott. The windows contain tiny details of Canada including the names of most of the Canadian Provinces that the soldiers came from. The kneelers likewise are embroidered with Canadian place names, flags and flowers. The canopied priest’s stall, lectern and desk were given in 1954 in memory of Canadian Forces associated with the area.

While John was posted to Bramshott, he reported sick on 7th November 1916 complaining of pain in his knee resulting in 8 weeks Base Duty.

John Cowan was posted overseas with the 3rd Canadian Labour Battalion and was promoted to Lieutenant Corporal on 6th February 1917 but reverted to ranks at his own request on 27th July 1917.

The 3rd Canadian Labour  Battalion was re designated to the 11th Canadian Railway Troops on 25th November 1917.

After leaving Whitley Camp, John Cowan was transferred to Kinmel Camp in Rhyl to prepare for repatriation to Canada, unfortunately he contracted Influenza and died at 2.30am on 27th January 1919.

He was awarded The British War Medal and The Victory Medal

John is also commemorated on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.


Learn more about the other soldiers on the Bodelwyddan Memorial

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