Edwin William Cowton
1889 - ?

Driver 111463
 Royal Field Artillery (RFA)


Edwin was almost 26 years old, working as a drayman when he enlisted on 18th October 1915 at Thirsk. Edwin stood 5' 6" tall and weighed in at 136lbs. 

Edwin's military record shows quite a different story to most of the WWI entries. As well as the usual service medals (Victory & British War Medal) Edwin was also awarded the India General Service Medal 1908 with Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919 clasp.

The reason for, and description of this medal is as follows ..

"Instituted 1st January 1909 for campaign service on the Indian frontiers and elsewhere ..."


This clasp, the most common issued, was awarded for service during the Third Afghan War from 6th May to 8th August 1919. The war began when Afghan regulars with some tribal support launched a tepid invasion of India."

In Edwins service history there is record of him serving in Mesopotamia -

"Mesopotamia (from the Greek meaning "land between the rivers") is the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, largely corresponding to modern Iraq,as well as some parts of northeastern Syria, some parts of southeastern Turkey, and some parts of the Khu-zesta-n Province of southwestern Iran."

the North West Frontier - 

"The province borders Afghanistan to the northwest, the Northern Areas to the northeast, Azad Kashmir to the east, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to the west and south, and Pakistani Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory to the southeast"

and various postings in India.

He was admitted to hospital in Makina on 25 June 1916 with diarrhoea, then invalided to India from Busra aboard the HS "Varela"

"The first built of her class which consisted of four ships the Valera was one of three launched from the Neptune Yard of Swan Hunter the remaining ship was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Govan.

In October of 1915 she underwent conversion in Bombay to an Indian Expeditionary Force Hospital Ship with 450 beds, she served in the Persian Gulf for the Mesopotamian Campaign and her success in the role assured the conversion and deployment of her sisters in similar employment."


Edwin's sister wrote a letter asking about her brother.

May 14th 1917

Dear Sir
I am writing to ask you if you can inform us in any way about my brother Driver E.W. Cowton as we have not heard from him since november 9th 1916. The last letter he said they were moving and we have never heard anything more and we are very anxious.
This his last address

Driver E.W. Cowton No111463
R.A. Depot

We shall be much obliged to you if you can inform us
Yours truly
Hilda Cowton

A report was sent stating he was in the 23 Brit Hos. Baghdad, seriously ill but doing well - Dysentry


On 8th November 1919 he embarked for the UK on HT "Khyber"



Actual Medal Index Card

"The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-79) had stopped Russian influence in Afghanistan, but Russian activity renewed around 1900. An Anglo-Afghan agreement on 21 Mar. 1905 re-affirmed earlier settlements. An Anglo-Russian entente on 31 Aug. 1907 established a compromise on British and Russian interests in Persia, and included Russia's recognition of Britain's predominant role in Afghanistan. Russia agreed once again to refrain from interference in Afghan affairs. The First World War interrupted this "Great Game". Despite German and Turkish agitation, Afghanistan remained neutral during the war, thanks in large part to British subsidies (instituted as a settlement of the second Afghan war). The end of the war brought renewed Russian interest in Afghan affairs. After the assassination of Amir Habibullah Khan (19 Feb. 1919), the army and Young Afghan Party installed his third son Amanullah as Amir. Amanullah, suspected of having plotted his father's death, diverted attention from local problems by proclaiming a jihad against Britain on 3 May 1919, capitalising on existing anti-British nationalist feeling in India. Rioting had broken out in the principal towns of the Punjab in March, including Amritsar, where on 13 Apr. 1919 Brig-Gen. Dyer had ordered Gurkha troops to open fire on an unarmed crowd. That massacre horrified not only India but much of the British public. (Dyer was dismissed after the Afghan war.) Taking advantage of the paucity of British troops, Amanullah also sought to regain the North West Frontier Province lost to Sikh expansionism in 1820-34.

British regular forces in India consisted of only two cavalry regiments and eight infantry battalions. The rest of the British garrison were Territorial Army battalions which had been sent during the First World War to relieve regulars for the fighting on the Western Front. With the end of the war these were eager to return to civilian life, and the Commander-in-Chief India had to intervene directly to forestall the threat of mutiny.


1919.02.19 Habibullah Khan assassinated
1919.02 Amanullah Khan installed as Amir
1919.05.03 Amanullah Khan declares jihad on Britain
1919.05.04 Afghan forces cross the Indian border, occupying a few towns
1919.05 British and Indian forces immediately mobilised and launch a massive land and air punitive campaign to reclaim the Indian towns and invade Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass; the force applied has been likened by some historians to hitting a mosquito with a sledgehammer
1919.05.31 Amanullah sues for an armistice
1919.08.08 Treaty of Rawalpindi: Britain recognises Afghan independence and ends subsidies
1921.02.28 Afghan treaty of friendship with Russia"

British War Medal

The British War Medal 1914-1920, authorised in 1919, was awarded to eligible service personnel and civilians alike. Qualification for the award varied slightly according to service. The basic requirement for army personnel and civilians was that they either entered a theatre of war, or rendered approved service overseas between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. Service in Russia in 1919 and 1920 also qualified for the award.
Victory Medal

The Victory Medal 1914-1919 was also authorised in 1919 and was awarded to all eligible personnel who served on the establishment of a unit in an operational theatre. 

India General Service Medal 1908 - Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919

To all troops who served:

(a) West of the Indus, exclusive of the Province of Sind, between 6th May, 1919 and 8th August, 1919, both dates inclusive.

(b) Under the orders of the General Officer Commanding the Baluchistan Force on the East Persian lines of communication between 6th May, 1919 and 8th August, 1919, both dates inclusive.

(c) In North-East Persia under the orders of Major-General W. Malleson, c.b., c.i.e., between 6th May, 1919 and 8th August, 1919, both dates inclusive.

(d) In the Khyber Pass, west of and excluding Jamrud, between 9th August, 1919 and 30th September, 1919, both dates inclusive.

(e) With the Waziristan Force, including those stationed at Darya Khan, Mianwali, Mari-Indus and Kalabagh, between 9th August, 1919 and 30th September, 1919, both dates inclusive.