Cecil Hunter Boyd Gowan

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Captain (retired) Cecil Hunter Boyd Gowan, R.N. (6 November, 1884 – 28 July, 1941) served in the Royal Navy.

Family Origins

Gowan was born in Courtfield Gardens, Kensington the third of three sons of Dr. Bowie Campbell Gowan (1848-1935) and the former Leila Davidson (1854-1937), who was the daughter of Confederate Naval officer, Commander Hunter Davidson (1826-1913). His elder brothers were Sir Hyde Clarendon Gowan (1878-1938), who served as Governor of the Central Provinces in India, and George d'Olier Gowan (1880-1936), an engineer. Gowan lived in London until joining the Royal Navy.

Life & Career

Gowan gained three and a half months' time on passing out of Britannia in mid-September, 1900. His first naval appointment was to the first class protected cruiser Terrible, on the China Station. He distinguished himself early in devising plans to turn a sunken dredger in Hong Kong harbour in 1901.[1]

On 11 July, 1902, Gowan was admitted to Plymouth Hospital to be treated for a hernia. He regained fitness on 23 October, 1902. On 1 November, 1902, he was appointed to the Renown in the Mediterranean. On 19 January, 1904, he joined the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. On 4 April, 1904, Gowan was given the only ship command he would ever obtain, that of the first-class torpedo boat T.B. 58. In November, 1904, Gowan was thanked by the Admiralty for his ingenuity in inventing an electrical device for "ascertaining atmospheric conditions at a distance."[2] Gowan was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 30 November.[3]

On 19 May 1906, Gowan was appointed to Excellent to qualify in gunnery. In April, 1907, he emerged qualified as Lieutenant (G) with 1715 marks, but on 25 May suffered a nervous breakdown and was taken to Portland. He was not declared fit before 27 December, 1907. Presently, he was appointed to H.M.S. Theseus for a half year and then to Emerald as Flag Lieutenant to Rear Admiral Paget, Senior Officer on the Coast of Ireland. He left this appointment only when Paget did, on 18 April, 1911.[4]

On 5 September 1911, Gowan was appointed to Dido for gunnery duties before being sent back to Excellent to requalify in gunnery at the end of April, 1912. He emerged at the end of July and was appointed to Revenge as first and gunnery lieutenant. Gowan was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in with a seniority of 30 November, 1912[5] and appointed to the pre-dreadnought Exmouth as her gunnery officer on 17 December, though his rank there was for a time listed as Lieutenant (G).[6]

Gowan was appointed as Lieutenant-Commander (G) of the light cruiser Yarmouth on 2 August, 1913. He was discharged from the ship to hospital on 1 June, 1914. This appointment proved very long, carrying into 1918. It would appear likely that he was in her at the Battle of Jutland, but there is no mention of this in his service record. However, the Imperial Russian government awarded him the Order of St. Anne 3rd Class (with Swords) among those Officers of the Grand Fleet for distinguished service rendered in the Battle of Jutland.[7] On 17 January, 1917 Gowan was admitted to the hospital ship China, but needed just two days before being discharged back to duty. Later that year, he provided valuable services in improving the flying deck fitted that had earlier been fitted to the ship.[8]

Gowan was promoted to the rank of Commander on 31 December, 1917,[9] and was superseded as gunnery officer in Yarmouth only on 2 February, 1918. He was appointed to H.M.S. Repulse as Flag Commander to Admiral Commanding, Aircraft Phillimore in March, 1918.[10]


Gowan left Repulse on 20 June 1919.[11]

He was appointed to President on 1 May, 1920 – perhaps working with Beatty's former Flag Lieutenant, Ralph F. Seymour in the Tactical Section.[12]

On 1 December, 1920 he was appointed Commander of the light cruiser Dartmouth, under Captain Guy P. Bigg-Wither.[13]

On 15 April, 1921 Gowan was appointed Commander of the light cruiser Southampton, under Captain Lawrence W. Braithwaite. This appointment was abbreviated on 21 July when Gowan was invalided to the Royal Naval Hospital at the Cape of Good Hope. Whatever had afflicted him, it effectively ended his naval career. Gowan was placed on the Retired List at his own request on 21 June, 1922 and was subsequently promoted to the rank of Captain on the Retired List in November, 1929.[14]

On 10 February 1930, he married the former Mrs. Venetia Mary Stanley Errington Trentham (née Savile).[15]

World War II

Gowan was granted a service exemption in 1939, as he was working in the Ministry of Information. In 1940, this exemption was made total.[16]

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Astley D. C. Cooper-Key
Captain of H.M. T.B. 58
4 Apr, 1905[17] – 8 Mar, 1906[18]
Succeeded by
Walter H. Leeke


  1. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  2. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  3. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 118.
  4. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  5. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 40.
  6. The Navy List. (March, 1913). p. 311.
  7. London Gazette, edition 30116, 5 June 1917, p. 5593.
  8. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  9. The Navy List. (December, 1918). p. 75a.
  10. The Navy List. (December, 1918). p. 796.
  11. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  12. The Navy List. (November, 1920). p. 831.
  13. The Navy List. (January, 1921). p. 757.
  14. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  15. Mosley, Charles, editor. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes. Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003, volume 2, page 2674.
  16. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.
  17. The Monthly Navy List. (December, 1905). p. 399.
  18. Gowan Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/49/133. f. 72.