Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Andrew King Cowper (1898–1980)

by Darryl Bennet

This article was published:

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 26 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

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

Life Summary [details]


16 November, 1898
Bingara, New South Wales, Australia


25 June, 1980 (aged 81)
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.