John Cowans

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Sir John Cowans
Lt-Gen Sir John S Cowans.jpg
Lieutenant General Sir John Cowans c.1914
Born(1862-03-11)11 March 1862
Carlisle, England
Died16 April 1921(1921-04-16) (aged 59)
Menton, France
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1881–1919
Commands heldPresidency Brigade
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Member of the Royal Victorian Order
Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer (Greece)

General Sir John Stephen "Jack" Cowans, GCB, GCMG, MVO (11 March 1862 – 16 April 1921) was a senior British Army officer who served as Quartermaster-General to the Forces from 1912 to 1919, covering the period of the First World War.

Military career[edit]

Educated at Burney's Academy at Gosport,[1] Cowans was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade in 1881.[2]

He became a Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General at Army Headquarters in 1898, and was thus involved in organizing troops during the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. For this service he was invested as a Member (fourth class) of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) two days after the ceremony, on 11 August 1902.[3][4] The following year, he became Assistant Quartermaster-General for 2nd Division at Aldershot Command in 1903.[2] In 1906 he was appointed Director-General of Military Education for the Indian Army and in 1907 he became Director of Staff Duties and Training at Army Headquarters in India.[2] He then became Commander of the Presidency Brigade in Calcutta in 1908.[2]

He returned to the United Kingdom in 1910 to be Director-General of the Territorial Forces and then became Quartermaster-General to the Forces in 1912; in this capacity he was responsible for finding accommodation and supplies for more than a million newly enlisted servicemen at the start of the First World War and worked closely with the Women's Legion and the YMCA to achieve this.[1]

Prime Minister H. H. Asquith described Cowans as "the best Quartermaster since Moses".[5] In October 1919, Cowans was appointed a Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer by Alexander of Greece, King of the Hellenes; this is the highest grade of the highest order of Greece.[6] He retired that year.[2]


In 1884, he married Eva Mary Coulson: they had no children.[1]


He died at Menton, France, in April 1921 aged 59, and was buried at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London.[7]


  1. ^ a b c John Cowans at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ a b c d e Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ "Court Circular". The Times (36844). London. 12 August 1902. p. 8.
  4. ^ "No. 27467". The London Gazette. 22 August 1902. pp. 5461–5462.
  5. ^ Wipers Dead Time Magazine, 1 June 1925
  6. ^ "No. 31615". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 October 1919. p. 13002.
  7. ^ "Sir John Steven Cowans". CWGC Casualty record. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Herbert Miles
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Travers Clarke