24 July 2015

Geoffrey COWEN

My latest problem child is 398 Geoffrey COWEN. I have his early details from his life in Kensington, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. And I have details of his post war life in Stockton, NSW, Australia. My issue is how he got to Australia from England.

I thought I'd found him working as firstly a deck boy, then a mess room steward on a number of regular passenger liners working between Liverpool and Sydney. However, it hit a problem when he is listed as working on the Ceramic in Oct, 1916. This would have been after his enlistment in July, 1915.

  • 1910 - Balasore - Liverpool - Sydney - Deck Boy
  • 1911 - Era - Port Pirie - Sydney OS
  • 1912 May - Irishman - Liverpool - Sydney - Mess Room Steward
  • 1913 May  - Irishman - Liverpool - Sydney - Mess Room Steward
  • 1914 May  - Irishman - Liverpool - Sydney - Linen Keeper
  • 1915 May and Oct- Ceramic - Liverpool - Sydney - Steward (later HMAT A40)
This person continued working on passenger ships until 1916, moving up the ranks to be a mess and linen steward. The possible link to this Geoffrey is that he mentions being a "seafearer" on his attestation papers and he has a connection to linen in his listed employment. Prior to enlisting he is working as a drapery packer and steward at D. Cohen and Co., Newcastle.

Normally, I'd say I've got the wrong person, but the linen steward connection seems pretty telling. They have the same year and place of birth - true, not an uncommon name.

Is this the same guy? It would explain how he got to Australia. And it seems while his father is listed as next of kin, he is done so via some living in Stockton - Mrs George TAYLOR, with his father remaining and dying in England. So no apparent other family in Australia. Working as a seaman would explain (1) How he got to Australia, (2) Lack of other family in Australia (3) Connection to Stockton.


  1. Geoff did have family in Australia. His brother Fred joined up on 4 January 1916. Not sure how they got here - family stories about jumping ship. By then their parents were living at Scott St Waratah. Both Fred and Geoff have children, grandchildren, gr grandchildren & gr gr grandchildren living in Australia. Fred & Geoff's parents returned to England in 1924 to be with the rest of the family.

  2. Further note: dates for G. Cowen sailing on Ceramic in 1915 don't seem to fit. Ceramic became a troopship in Nov 1914. Geoff enlisted 17 July 1915, sailed to France via Egypt on "Beltana" on 9 November 1915. There is a G Cowen on the ship as staff but he is younger than Geoff and continued to sail with well after Geoff was fighting in France. There is a Grover Cowen on one of these other ships.

  3. This blog is further than my expectations. Nice work guys!!!

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