Henry John COWIE [????- ] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Henry John COWIE [????- ]

Henry John


Capt. T/Major 5th (Probyn’s) Horse IAC.

“During the Autumn of 1944, in order that the Allied airfields at Kweilin and Liuchow should be evacuated with minimum loss of stores and supplies, it was essential that the enemy advance be delayed Northeast of Kweilin.  In the absence of any Chinese units capable of undertaking demolition work, the BAAG offered the services of a demolition party to Marshal Chang Fa-Kwei.

The preliminary reconnaissance and the operations were carried out over some hundreds of miles of road, with inadequate transport and often with little or no protection;  nor was it possible in the state of chaos existing then, to obtain in advance any accurate or reliable information concerning the many enemy columns operating through the adjacent hills.  In spite of these difficulties and with commendable ingenuity and improvisa­tion, the teams succeeded in demolishing all road bridges for 40 mils NE of Kweilin and all villages and all natural cover for M/T accessible from the road;  all the bridges in and around Kweilin were demolished and those on the Kweilin-Lipu-Liuchow road all mined.  As a result, the fall of Kweilin and Liuchow was delayed for some weeks thus enabling the 14th USAAF to continue to employ their fighter aircraft with much success against the enemy columns, operations which would have been impossible had they not been able to use Liuchow as a forward base.

Major Cowie was in command of one of the BAAG demolition teams and throughout displayed most commendable bravery and devotion to duty.  These together with his technical skill were not only major factors in the success of these operations but his example was an inspiration to the Chinese and British troops alike.

There can be no doubt that this was the most important British military operation in South China and that it was directly responsible for the restoration of British prestige in the Chinese eyes.  Major Cowie’s distinguished services in this operation undoubtedly played a large part in attaining this end.

After this demolition work was completed, Major Cowie rejoined the main body of the BAAG in its long evacuation to Kunming and was in command of the rear party at Tushan when the town was suddenly attacked by the Japanese, the Chinese having given them no hint that the enemy were in the vicinity.  It was totally due to Major Cowie’s masterly command of the situation and his bravery that the whole of this BAAG party escaped without loss.

He was also one of the Officers who volunteered to be dropped or landed in Canton or Hongkong early in August in order to bring help to the PsW.  This operation entailed no small amount of risk as the attitude of the Japanese was as then unknown.  When the landing in Canton was eventually made on August 19th, the party was forcibly detained by the enemy and only released some hours later after lengthy negotiations.  In spite of this experience he later returned to Canton as the sole British representative in the American team and was entirely responsible for the excellent work done in the evacuation and care of the British internees there.  The success of this operation was wholly due to Major Cowie’s tact and firmness in dealing with the Japanese officials.

In all these operations in the field, his devotion to duty and the standard of his services have been consistently outstanding.”      (signed) L T Ride, Colonel