Walter Sydney Cowling was born September 8, 1891 at Hackney, Essex, England, the son of Mrs. Sarah Cowling of Tottenham, London, England. The 1911 census notes that Walter came to Canada in 1910 and was working as a wiper with the Canadian Pacific Railroad out of Revelstoke. He was living at the YMCA at the time. By 1914 he had become a locomotive fireman with the CPR. He was one of the first applicants to sign up for military service when war broke out in August 1914.
Walter Cowling signed his enlistment papers September 18, 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec, the mobilization point for the First Contingent of Canadian soldiers. He was 23 years old, 5’ 8” tall, single, with brown hair and blue eyes. His religious affiliation was Anglican. His regimental number was 16990.
Walter Cowling was a survivor of the Second Battle of Ypres April 1915 in which chlorine gas was used for the first time as a weapon of war. A letter home from the front by R.A. Reid stated that on the fourth day of the Battle of Ypres their regiment could only muster 70 men out of 1100 and only four of the Revelstoke recruits were available: G.D. Hamilton, W. Cowling, J. Candy and R.A. Reid. He stated that some of the men were overcome by gas. ‘That gas was a terrible experience for all of us and one that I don’t want to go through again. It was a cinch for the Germans to advance on us when we were lying in the trenches writhing and choking. We had to fall back to keep from getting surrounded. I was hit with a piece of shrapnel in the middle of the day and lay there until dark when Jim Candy and Cowling and two other fellows carried me on a stretcher for about two miles to a dressing station.”
Another item in the newspaper of June 30, 1915 noted that Walter Cowling again had a near “squeak.” A piece of shell about the size of a goose egg hit the wall against which he was leaning and bounced off hitting him on the back of the leg with enough force to bruise him.
Walter Cowling was killed in action on September 27, 1915. He was 24 years old. At the time of his death he was a Private in the 7th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment). He is buried at Berks Cemetery Extension, Belgium.
Walter Cowling’s name is inscribed on St. Peter’s Anglican Chancel Memorial Screen and was listed on the YMCA Honor Roll which appeared in the local newspaper at the end of the war. His name appears as Cowling W. on both the Courthouse and Cenotaph plaques.