Daniel McGowan MC - A personal tribute

Daniel McGowan, one-time Roman Catholic Padre to the 4th PARA Brigade, died peacefully in a nursing home near to his house in Yorkshire, on 8 July. He suffered a long illness during which he displayed the courage, good humour and dignity that were part of him.

He lived with us of the 133 PARA Field Ambulance near Oakham, prior to going to Holland in September 1944. We quickly came to value his exceptional character and delightful disposition and he endeared himself to the whole Brigade as he went about his duties.

He jumped with the 4th Bde on 17 September. I met him on the DZ when he told me that he had lost the Holy Sacrament because his feet were temporarily caught in his rigging lines. Miraculously the Sacrament was found in the heather, despite the heat of battle, and restored to him.

He made his way to the Elizabeth Hospital in Arnhem from where, over the next week he did splendid and valiant work, for which he was eventually awarded the Military Cross. Accompanied only by a Dutch Red Cross civilian, he moved 'over the battlefield collecting medical supplies and food and burying the dead, many of whom he had known well.

In his Red Beret, itself almost a death warrant, his immaculate uniform, and highly polished boots, with ruibicand face above his clerical collar, he must have been a remarkable figure amidst the chaos. Centainly any German he met looked at him with amazement and disbelief. He would approach them quite openly at t,he end of the day and ask to be taken back to the Hospital - and he was!

He was of great help to Brigadier "Shan" Hackelt who, disguised firstly as a Cpl and then a Major, lay seriously wounded in the hospital. In his book "I Was A Stranger" Sir John describcs him as doing "Some of the strangest and bravest work I have ever known". He has remained a friend and admirer of Danny as he always called him up to the time of his death.

When the time came, he escaped and got as far as the bank of the Rhine, where sadly he was recaptured, jusl as he was about to plunge in. I shared a room with him at Duloy Luft for six months. Here he continued his duties, collecting Roman Catholics for early Mass, cheering the depressed, comforting the battle weary. Nearly always a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a joke available. He was a great companion and a lovable man.

After the war, for reasons connected with his military service, he gave up the priest-hood, but remained a devout Catholic. He married, and took an educational post in Peterborough.

Sadly in 1952, he developed severe Polio, which left him badly disabled. He was able eventually to return to work, and held down a responsible position in education for many years. He raised a splendid family, and took a full part in family life. Our hearts go out to Mabel his wife, and to all his family.

Small in stature, he was a giant in his faith and his charity to mankind. He is sadly missed.


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