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- Vale SQNLDR Bob Cowper DFC & Bar OAM, Legion of Honour (Fr) (Retd)
Vale SQNLDR Bob Cowper DFC & Bar OAM, Legion of Honour (Fr) (Retd)
Monday 20 June, 2016
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of our state’s most distinguished World War II veterans, SQNLDR Bob Cowper DFC & Bar OAM, Legion of Honour (Fr) (Retd).
Bob is a true “ace” of World War II. A title achieved by shooting down at least five enemy aircraft. He finished the war as Commanding Officer of 456 Squadron, Australia’s only Night Fighter Squadron.
Bob survived two crash landings – one when his Beaufighter crashed in the Sahara desert and another off the coast of Malta. This latter crash was consequent upon his first victory. He shot a Junkers 88 light bomber out of the sky. The Junkers exploded directly in front of Bob’s plane and brought Bob down with it. For his distinguished service in the Malta action Bob was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with the following citation:
This officer has completed 68 sorties and has displayed great courage and determination. During a sortie in January, 1943, Flying Officer Cowper was compelled to make a forced landing behind the enemy’s lines but he displayed great resource in outwitting the enemy and regained our own lines on foot. One night in July, 1943, he engaged a Junkers 88 and caused it to explode. The enemy aircraft disintegrated and a large portion struck and so disabled Flying Officer Cowper’s aircraft that he – was forced to leave it by parachute. He was later rescued from the sea and rejoined his squadron to resume operational flying. Since then, Flying Officer Cowper has destroyed another Junkers 88.
On 6 June, 1944 (D-Day) 1944, Bob flew with 456 Squadron. He later spoke of the view of the channel, completely covered with thousands of boats.
He was subsequently awarded a Bar to his DFC for:.consistently displaying a high degree of skill on two tours of operations. The insignia was presented by His Majesty King George VI, at Buckingham Palace on 2 February, 1945.
After the war Bob was a prominent farmer and was active in Local Government with the Council of Willunga. He was also a member of Legacy and became State President. He was on the Bloodstock Breeders Board and was very active in the horseracing arena.
Bob has retained an enormous loyalty to the members of his unit and their families. He was asked to step in after the last of the Australian Battle of Britain pilots died, representing them in England at a memorial service in 1995. More recently Bob coordinated a memorial Honour Board remembering the service of our Australian Battle of Britain Pilots. The Honour Board was unveiled in September 2011, and is now proudly displayed at the RAAF Base Edinburgh Officers’ Mess.
In 2004, Bob was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honour. The award was bestowed to a small number of veterans representing Allied nations of World War II, in recognition of their contribution to D-Day operations and the liberation of France.
Bob was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2012 Australia Day Honours list for service to veterans and their families through a range of ex-service organisations.
In June 2014, Bob returned to France on a Commonwealth DVA commemorative mission to mark the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.
A biography of Bob’s amazing life titled: Chasing Shadows was written and published by Stephen Lewis in 2007.
Bob was a tireless advocate for veterans and will be sorely missed by the veteran community.
Lest we forget!
COWPER, Robert Barson. THE FAMILY and FRIENDS of the late Mr. ROBERT BARSON COWPER are invited to assemble for his Funeral Service on FRIDAY, July 1 at 2.00pm at the Morphettville Racecourse, 79 Morphett Road, Morphettville. In lieu of floral tributes, a donation to Legacy would be appreciated. Envelopes will be available at the Service.