James Picken Cowey, M.C. served in the 14th and 46th Battalions in World War 1, seeing action at Gallipoli, Egypt and the Western Front. He was injured several times, rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was twice recommended for the MC in the final stages of the war in 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallant action and devotion to duty as Intelligence Officer during operations West of Bellenglise on the 18th and 19th of September, 1918. His award stated:
When the line was held up by heavy machine-gun fire, he dashed forward, organised a party and pushed forward to a sunken road, where he established posts under intense machine-gun fire. It was owing to his fine work in assisting to organise the line that the position was held.
Image provided by 39th Australian Infantry Battalion (1941-43) Association
In World War 2, Jim firstly trained young militia men in the use of the Lewis Gun before being attached to the 39th Battalion, who were sent to Port Moresby in then New Guinea. After the Japanese invaded there, the 39th Battalion were sent up the Kokoda Track to protect the airstrip and fought fiercely against the Japanese who significantly outnumbered them. Overran by the enemy, Jim saved many men by walking them out through the Japanese rather than trying to make a run for it, which is what some of the young fellas wished to do. He also fought in the Battle of Isurava and Eora Creek before being evacuated sick back to Australia.
Jim was 52 years of age in this action, in some of the most arduous jungle terrain one can imagine, in appalling conditions as the men had little food or equipment and scant ammunition. Almost all the men he was fighting with were half his age, or younger!
Lest We Forget