Very little is known at the present time regarding Edward Cowle, who (as is recorded on the Roll of Honour in Winkleigh church) served in the Devonshire Regiment. We have no medal card which would have given us an army number and clues to his battalion, nothing in the church magazines and no surviving army records.
Edward Cowle was born about 1898, the son of William and Helena Cowle of Wood Terrel Farm. The family was a very important one in Winkleigh, managing a large farm, and being represented on both the Parish Council and the Winkleigh School Board. John Cowle, William’s father was one of the original Board School members when it was formed in 1874 to arrange for the building and establishment of the school. By 1885 or perhaps a little earlier, William Cowle had replaced his father on the Board, and we have a record in the meetings of the Board that he and William Molland hired the school in December 1885 for a Christmas event. In 1887 William Cowle was proposing a rise in school fees to 2d per week for the children of Farmers and tradesmen (as opposed to 1d for labourers) and to 6d per week for those over 14 in order to help make the school more financially viable. John Cowle died in January 1889. In a tribute to his work for the school and the village, the Board recorded a tribute to ‘his honesty and manly straightforwardness’. Shortly after, William Cowle resigned from the Board.
This association with the life of the village would have ensured that William’s children took the maximum opportunity to learn at the school, unless as is very possible both he and his brother Sidney were educated privately. The 1901 census at Wood Terrel farm shows 4 children: John aged 9, William 7, Sidney 5 and Edward 3. By 1911 both Sidney and Edward were away from home on census night, which could indicate that they were at boarding school.
Only 14 years old when the war began, he would not have been enlisted until his 18th birthday, and would not have been liable for overseas service until 1918 at the earliest. It is therefore quite possible that Edward never left Devon, which could well account for the lack of a medal card. Nevertheless, it is important to see Edward Cowell’s name on the Roll of Honour, since his brothers obviously were exempted in order to continue helping their father to run the farm.
16 July 2011