Introducing Sydney Cowan 22nd Battery 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
Sydney was born on the 19th of June 1914 to Alexander Scarlet Cowan and Eleanor May Cowan. They lived in 134 Roden Street, Belfast and Sydney’s parents worked in a linen mill. Sydney had two siblings: a sister named Iris and a brother called Fred, who was also a gunner in the Royal Artillery. Sydney worked for the Belfast Corporation (now Belfast City Council) before he enlisted with the 8th (Belfast) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve) on the 11th of May 1939 as a gunner along with many other men from Belfast. He was also in the 8th Belfast H.A.A Regt. Band.
The Regiment was initially mobilised to defend the city of Belfast in the following months before the United Kingdom officially declared war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939. Sydney served with the regiment throughout his army career, the regiment joined the BEF in France before Christmas 1939. Sydney’s battery (22nd) was deployed in the defence of Port Le Havre and was later evacuated from St. Malo in 1940. On the 3rd of July 1940 Sydney married Miss Isabella Mooney daughter of Mr and Mrs Mooney from Doagh, Co. Antrim, in a military wedding at Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast, with his brother Fred Cowan as his best man.
After the regiment returned from France it was deployed across England during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. Sydney’s father Alexander died shortly after, on the 7th of December 1940.
The Regiment then served in India and Burma in 1942, where it earned the nickname the “Twelve Mile Snipers” as they fired effectively against the Japanese air force and against ground targets at long range and with incredible accuracy. Sydney would finish the war with the rank of lance-bombardier.
After the war Sydney returned to work for the Belfast Corporation as a gas inspector and lived for a while at his wife’s residence: Springvale House in the village of Doagh, Co. Antrim. He later moved to 1 Sandhill Parade, Belfast where he lived until his death on the 2nd of June 1978. He was buried at Dundonald Cemetery