Francis "Frank" Jollie Gowans (1880-1952)
Westoe man served with Royal Navy survived the Battle of Jutland and rose to the rank of Surgeon Rear-Admiral
Francis “Frank” Jollie Gowans was born on 22 November 1880. His father was a Scottish doctor William Gowans (1847-1923) who had established a practice in Westoe village. His mother was Mary Florence Gowans nee Haggie (1858-1938) who was born in Whickham. The couple had two additional children giving Frank a sister called Elizabeth and brother called John.
William’s first wife was Mary Gowans nee Nelson (1842-1877) the daughter of Harry Nelson, a South Shields banker who served two terms as Mayor. She bore four sons Henry, James, William and Thomas. All of William’s six sons served during the First World War, with five surviving and only William junior perishing in the conflict.
Frank attended South Shields High School for Boys and on completion of his schooldays went on to study to be a doctor at Durham College of Medicine. He qualified as a doctor in 1903 and joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon on 23 November 1903. He began his naval career at the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth. He served on HMS Triumph and HMS Clio before a spell at The Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in Gosport, Hampshire.
At the beginning of the “Great War” Frank was serving as Staff Surgeon on HMS Queen Mary which was sunk on 31 May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland with 1,266 crewmen lost and only 18 survivors. An article in the Durham Chronicle on 9 June 1916 reports that Frank had been serving on the Queen Mary until a fortnight before the battle when he was appointed to another ship and it could therefore report that he was safe. The London Gazette reported on 5 June 1917 that Frank was awarded the Order of St Anne third class with swords for distinguished services rendered in the Battle of Jutland.
As a career sailor, Frank continued to serve after the war. He served on HMS Challenger and spent several years as Surgeon Commander for sick quarters at the Royal Naval Hospital Yokohama, Japan. He was appointed Surgeon Captain on 31 December 1929 and served in that capacity on HMS Repulse and the hospital ship HMS Maine before returning to Haslar.
Returning to the naval hospital at Plymouth, Frank was promoted to Surgeon Rear-Admiral on 8 May 1935, achieving the second highest possible rank for a surgeon in the Royal Navy. The London Gazette reported on 9 July 1937 that Frank had been appointed Honorary Surgeon to the King. He was made Companion of the Order of Bath on 2 January 1939.
Frank’s career drew to a close with an appointment to the Royal Naval Auxiliary Hospital, Newton Abbot on 1 September 1939 where he retired from active service. He was living at Eversley, 5 Highweek Village, Newton Abbot, Devon when he died on 16 April 1952. He died in the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth where his naval career had begun.
Civil Parish: South Shields
Birth date: 22-Nov-1880
Death date: 16-Apr-1952
Armed force/civilian: Navy
Residence: Westoe Village (1881,1891,1901,1911 census)
Eversley, 5 High Week Village, Newton Abbot, Devon (1952 probate record)
Education: South Shields High School for Boys
Durham College of Medicine
Employment: Surgeon, Royal Navy
Family: Parents: William Gowans (1847-1923), Mary Florence Gowans nee Haggie (1858-1938)
Siblings: Elizabeth Clara Gowans, John Halliburton Gowans
Half-siblings: Henry Gowans, James Gowans, William Gowans, Thomas Gowans
Surgeon, 23 November 1903
Staff Surgeon, 23 November 1911
Surgeon Commander, 1 March 1917
Surgeon Captain, 31 December 1929
Surgeon Rear-Admiral, 8 May 1935
British War Medal
Order of St Anne third class with swords, London Gazette, 3 June 1917
King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935
King George VI Coronation Medal, 1937
Honorary Surgeon to the King (KHS), London Gazette, 9 July 1937
Companion of the Order of Bath, London Gazette, 2 January 1939
Contributed by David D, Stanley, Co Durham
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