Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dad's Heroic Role in Crew Rescue Is Revealed

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Dad's Heroic Role in Crew Rescue Is Revealed

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter

A77?YEAR?OLD grandfather has uncovered the dramatic story of his late father's role in rescuing the entire crew of a Dutch ship o the South Shields coast - 100 years ago this month.

Tom Gowans had never heard his Blyth-born father talk of his service record during the First World War before he died in 1947.

While he was aware his father had a medal in his possession, it had been inherited by an older brother and he'd seen it only once as a child.

And with the deaths over the years of all four of his siblings, it seemed the chance to learn anything new had been lost too.

But now the granddad of ve has been stunned to learn his dad received one of the highest Dutch honours going for helping to save the lives of the crew of a ship which ran aground o the coast of South Shields in 1915.

"It was a shock," said Tom, who was raised in Ashington but now lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester. "My dad had never mentioned any of his war service whatsoever."

He started looking into the past of his father Robert Handyside Gowans when his nephew began researching the family tree and sparked his interest.

With no older family members around to answer questions, he began piecing together information with the help of local history societies and old records.

e medal had come from Queen Wilhelmina of Holland and he said: "It was not until I looked into it further and wrote to the Dutch Embassy military attache that I learned it was their highest honour for saving life."

A letter from an assistant defence attache in answer to his inquiry added that the silver medal, a civil decoration whose name translates as the Honorary Medal for Charitable Assistance, is also its oldest decoration for bravery.

"I remember my mother wearing this medal after my father died but I never attached any great signi-cance to it," said Tom.

e Netherlands steamer Sliedrecht, built by a Middlesbrough company in 1905, was en route to the Tyne from Amsterdam in a snowstorm when it was blown on to rocks at Frenchman's Point, o South Shields. …

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