The Great War group of four awarded to Captain C. H. B. Gowan, Royal Navy, who, having served as Gunnery Officer of the cruiser Yarmouth at Jutland, gained wider fame for his pioneering work in the launching of aircraft at sea
1914-15 Star ,Lt. Commr. C. H. B. Gowan, R.N.; British War and Victory Medals, Commr. C. H. B. Gowan, R.N.; Russian Order of St. Anne, 3rd class, with swords, gilt metal and enamel.
Cecil Hunter Boyd Gowan was born in November 1904 and entered the Royal Navy as a Naval Cadet in Britannia in May 1899. In the following year he quickly came to the attention of his seniors as an innovative young Midshipman on the China Station, when he drew up plans for the raising of the dredger Canton River by the Terrible at Hong Kong, an exercise that was successfully accomplished in January 1901; though borne on the books of the Terrible, he does not appear on the published China Medal 1900 roll.
Advanced to Lieutenant in November 1904, Gowan went on to serve as Gunnery Officer in the Emerald and, in July 1908, was appointed Flag Lieutenant of the same ship.
By the outbreak of war in August 1914, he was serving as Lieutenant-Commander and Gunnery Officer in the cruiser Yarmouth, in which ship he was present at Jutland. As part of the Third Light Cruiser Squadron, and in the company of her consort Falmouth, she fought several duels, scoring some hits on the Lutzow and Derfflinger, and possibly the Seydlitz too; one of these, according to an officer on the bridge, making ‘a topping target and it was very pleasant to see salvo after salvo of our 6-inch hitting her’. Indeed so enthusiastic was the gunnery department under Gowan, that ‘new ammunition was sent up the hoists with so much energy as to accumulate a dangerous amount at the top’. He was awarded the Russian Order of St. Anne (London Gazette 5 June 1917).
But it was for his subsequent ground-breaking advances in naval combat flying that he gained greater fame. Wings of Neptune, by Captain D. McIntyre:
‘While it was still under consideration [the proposal to convert a cruiser in each squadron with a flying-off platform for aircraft], however, there came a development which resolved the doubts of the gun conscious objectors. Lieutenant-Commander C. H. B. Gowan, an enthusiast in his conception of the importance of the air weapon, and who had been associated with the experiments in the Yarmouth, suggested a platform on the roof of a gun turret in capital ships running out along the 15-inch guns themselves. This would preserve the full gun armament and permitted the turrets to be turned to give the best wind effect on the launching. This was tried out by Flight Commander Rutland in a Pup on 17 October from H.M.S. Repulse.’
And tried with success, as had been Gowan’s earlier wooden platform in the Yarmouthon 17 June 1917, again by Rutland. It was via this latter invention, with Gowan operating the release handle under the aircraft, that another Naval aviator, Flight Sub-Lieutenant B. A. Smart, was launched ‘like a bird’ in his Pup on 21 August in pursuit of Zeppelin L-23, which he destroyed. No doubt spurred on by this, and similar experiments, Gowan obtained his own Royal Aero Club pilot’s licence in May 1918 and before the end of the year he was serving as Flag Commander aboard the Royal Navy’s first aircraft carrier, the Furious.
Naval Cadet 15 September 1900
Midshipman 30th September 1900
Sub Lieutenant 30th 1903
Lieutenant 30th November 1904
Lt Commander 30th November 1912
Commander 31st December 1917
Retires Captain 6th November 1929
Gowan was placed on the Retired List as a Captain in November 1929, published The Elusive Giant in 1933
Died 28th July 1941; sold together with copied research.
Condition – generally GVF