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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cowper, Andrew King (1898–1980)

by Darryl Bennet

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Andrew King Cowper (1898-1980), by unknown photographer, 1942-45

Andrew King Cowper (1898-1980), by unknown photographer, 1942-45

Australian War Memorial, P03708.001

Andrew King Cowper (1898-1980), air force officer, was born on 16 November 1898 at Bingara, New South Wales, fifth child of Henry Percival Cowper, a native-born surveyor, and his wife Amy Fraser, née Farquhar, from Guernsey, Channel Islands. Andrew was a fourth-generation descendant of William Cowper and Philip Gidley King. Educated in England at Eastbourne College, Sussex, on 10 May 1917 he was appointed temporary second lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. He qualified as a pilot and in August joined No.24 Squadron in France.

Flying D.H.5 and subsequently S.E.5a aeroplanes, Cowper operated from the Amiens and Dunkirk districts against German air and ground forces. In November 1917 he was credited with shooting down two enemy planes. On 26 February 1918 he skilfully shepherded a Pfalz west of the lines and forced it to land at a British aerodrome. Between 18 February and 6 March he destroyed two aircraft by solo effort and a further four in conjunction with other pilots; for his actions he was awarded the Military Cross.

Having acted as flight commander for some weeks, on 24 March 1918 Cowper was confirmed in the post and promoted temporary captain. In aerial engagements from the 8th to the 29th he accounted for another eight enemy aeroplanes by himself and two with the assistance of his comrades; he won a Bar to his M.C. Between 21 March and 1 April he flew twenty ground-attack sorties and caused 'great havoc and confusion' among German troops. Although his aircraft was repeatedly hit by enemy fire, he escaped injury. His 'magnificent dash and determination' earned him a second Bar to his M.C. Posted to England in April, he transferred to the Royal Air Force that month. After the Armistice he served in Germany and India before retiring on 13 February 1920.

Returning to Australia, Cowper took over Wiliga, his parents' sheep-property near Coonamble, New South Wales. On 28 April 1924 he married Miriam Goldberg at the district registrar's office, Randwick, Sydney; they were to have two sons Leon and Henry. Drought forced the Cowpers off the land and they moved to Sydney. Miriam opened a florist's shop in the city; Andrew became proprietor of Henderson & Co., seed and plant merchants; their business enterprises eventually included a gladioli-farm at Mona Vale. Cowper enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 23 February 1942, rose to squadron leader in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, and was demobilized on 2 March 1945.

Horticulture was Cowper's hobby as well as his living and he established a fine garden at his Bellevue Hill home. He was a member of the Australian Jockey and the Sydney Turf clubs. Fair minded and even tempered in outlook, he participated in Jewish festivals for his wife's and children's sake, but retained his allegiance to Anglicanism. The deaths of Miriam (1963), Leon (1971) and Henry (1972) saddened his later years. Cowper died on 25 June 1980 at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. E. Illingworth, A History of 24 Squadron (Lond, c1920)
  • 'World War I Air Ace Dies Aged 81', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 June 1980, p 2
  • private information.

Citation details

Darryl Bennet, 'Cowper, Andrew King (1898–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 10 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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