|Rank On Discharge/Death||Flying Officer (FLGOFF)|
|Date of Birth||18 Sep 1919|
|Date of Enlistment||19 Jul 1941|
|Contributing Author/s||The Spitfire Association|
Paul Carter and Steve McGregor
Fred Cowpe was born on the 18/9/19 in Parramatta NSW. He enlisted on the 19/7/41. Long term R.S.L. Member Fred Cowpe is a modest man, but history will record that as a fighter pilot for the R.A.A.F. In World War 11, Fred received two medals for conspicuous bravery, The Distinguished Flying Cross and the Legion of Honour.
Fred was a member of the U.K. Based R.A.A.F. No. 453 Squadron and on that historic day back on June 6 1944, participated in the greatest invasion known to man. The Normandy Invasion that heralded the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.
The start of June 6, for the twenty four year old Fred Cowpe, commenced with a quick nervous cup of coffee at 4.30am and the following is Fred's account of that day, the day that changed history...
'I was with 453 Squadron and we knew D-Day was coming. We just didn't know when.'
For me, D-Day started with a 4.30am cup of coffee and then briefing at 5.0am. We were patrolling the beaches at around 2000 feet (609 metres) I was to lead Blue Section with three others. As we flew over the Channel at dawn there were ships as far as the eye could see. Halfway across we were told to patrol Omaha Beach where the Yanks were getting a lot of resistance. There were Allied planes everywhere and you had to keep a good lookout not to collide with another plane.
I saw a destroyer cop a direct hit from a shore battery and it must have hit the magazine because it blew up and sank.
The only action I saw on that first sortie was to chase two Mustangs thinking they were Me-109's. We returned to base and were told to turn around and take off again in 50 mins.
The next time we were over Juno Beach. Six Ju-88's dived out of the clouds to drop their bombs on the shipping but we saw a Polish Spitfire squadron shoot them all down. We returned refueled and were in the air again by 1300.
We were over Gold Beach this time. I shot down a barrage balloon that had broken its moorings. We could see the gliders that were mostly broken in half in the fields. Poor buggers. Fields were covered in parachutes. We did another run at 2100 but my plane had troubles and I had to cut it short.
That was my D-Day. Four sorties, one balloon. We thought we'd be in the greatest battle of all time, but it was a bit of an anti-climax for us.
The tough part came later as we moved inland and were subjected to heavy ground fire from the retreating German forces as we made low level attacks.
Just two months after D-Day, Fred Cowpe was shot down in flames and landed in a field. He was badly burned and British soldiers helped him out of this destroyed Spitfire. Fred was told that he had landed in a minefield but had luck on his side. Those burns meant one thing, he was going home.
The awarding of France's highest military honour, the Legion of Honour, to Fred is the end result of many years of lobbying by the survivors for official recognition of the efforts by Australian servicemen in respect of D-Day.
He was discharged 3/8/45. Photo above is of Fred being visited recently by the current commander of his old 453 Squadron WNGCDR, Karl Holzmann.
Fred lined up for his last flight September 2012.
COWPE, Fred Foster
D.F.C. Legion of Honour
September 13, 2011
Late of Mt. Druitt. Beloved husband of May (decd). Loving father and father-in-law of Carleen and Peter, John and Verna. Loving grandfather of Verity-May, Lisa, Erin and Renee.
A true gentleman,
gallant to the end.