David A ‘Charlie’ Cowling 1947-2019
Drum Major
Served 1962-1987

David Arthur Cowling was born in Plymouth on Wednesday 19th March 1947 to parents Dennis and Ellen. Young David was a pupil at Knowle Primary School in Plymouth which was situated at the top of a hill and quite a steep walk for about three quarters of a mile. When he was starting at the school, David’s mum asked another older boy if he could go to school with him.. he agreed and from then on the boys became friends. There was an electric milk float that used to go up over the hill and honestly.. the driver’s name was Ernie, but he definitely did ‘not’ have the fastest milk cart in the West! What the older boy used to do was hide behind the bushes and when Ernie’s cart slowed down to go uphill, he’d jump on the back without him knowing.. he taught young David how to do the same, saving them the long walk up the hill. David’s mother was strict with him.. probably too strict and he would usually tremble when he was being told off. One day the boys were caught by Ernie who give them hell, he used to deliver milk to both of their houses, so he obviously knew their parents and told them what they were doing each morning, he said if a policeman saw them he would be in trouble. David’s Mum went loopy and banned him from seeing the boy and told him he was a bad influence on him. The older boys’ dad knew Ernie and knew he liked a beer, he bought him two double diamonds a week in agreement that he could travel on the back of his cart pretending he didn't know, which he accepted ! Poor David had to walk up to the top of the hill in the rain while watching his pal get cosy on the back of the float... three months later the boys met up again, they would meet up on Saturdays and often went down to the local creek, David’s mother would say to him, “Are you sure you’re not meeting that lad” and she’d give him hell... David’s dad was a lovely man, he used to laugh at the boys behind her back!.. God forbid if she had ever noticed him!

The boy in question was also in the Royal Marines Cadet Band as a drummer... he was David Langmead who went on to join the Royal Marines Band Service as a Junior Bugler in 1960.
Young ‘Charlie’ Cowling was coming up to thirteen when David returned home in rig on his first leave... Charlie was so excited about David coming home.. he waited an hour and half at the bus stop to greet him. When David got off the bus, he put his kitbags down.. Charlie took one look at his uniform and with wide eyes exclaimed, “That's what I want to be”... The rest is History... Charlie’s decision to join the Royal Marines Band Service was greatly Influenced by David and aged just fifteen, he joined the Corps as a Junior Bugler on 7th May 1962, becoming part of the 3/62 New Entry Squad. Following his success in Training Wing, Bugler Cowling was allocated a place at the Royal Marines School of Music Staff Band, he remained at Deal beyond 1964, until he became the Unit Bugler attached to 42 Commando based in Singapore. Meanwhile David had been posed to 3Cdo Brigade Band in Singapore.. whilst Charlie was out there, he enjoyed up-homers and plenty of runs ashore together with his good pal.
Having enjoyed his life in the Far East.

Charlie managed to find his way back home with a draft to Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Plymouth based at HMS Drake, under the command of Lieutenant Ben Finney. Charlie was still a novice bugler with a lot to learn. For six-months at Plymouth, he and the other younger lads gained valuable experience from LCpl Bugler Langmead.. with one or two rollicking's.. he helped Charlie improve and become a good bugler. CinC Plymouth Band was renamed Flag Officer Plymouth in 1969 before moving across to HMS Raleigh in 1971. Charlie was a good darts player and was part of the buglers team that used to challenge other pubs out of darts season. The buglers also had a football team, Bugler Al Sutcliffe was captain and ran the team, he was from Salford so he got them to wear a Man Utd strip. Charlie played in goal and was regarded as quite a good keeper. The team were doing fairly well and held their own until they travelled to Milan in Italy to perform beat retreat and tattoo for the British trade fair fortnight. They played a local youth team and were thrashed 7-0, Charlie had to take all the flack, because he was in goal!

David was honoured when Charlie asked him to be his Best Man when he married Stonehouse girl Pauline Frost in November 1969 at St Thomas Church in Keyham Plymouth. Charlie and David didn’t meet again for around 45 years. The couple were blessed with a son in 1971 when Anthony David was born. Their family extended further when their second son Michael John arrived on 27th June 1974.
Following a successful B2’s and Junior Command Course.. ‘Charlie’ was promoted to Cpl Bugler on 18th March 1977. He managed to lengthen his stay at Raleigh until 1978 when he was drafted to the Royal Marines Band Britannia Royal Naval College under the baton of WO2 Bandmaster Chris Sheppard. He moved his family to the married quarter patch at 17 Rock Park for the duration of his stay at Dartmouth. The following year he was in the band that travelled to Hong Kong for the opening of HMS Tamar and he was the recipient of his Long Service and Good Conduct medal from BRNC Captain Nicholas Hunt. Dave Hough took over the reigns as Bandmaster before Charlie was successful on his Drum Majors course in 1980 and was subsequently appointed to the role on his return to BRNC Band.. filling the seat occupied by John Griffiths. He also travelled with the band in 1980 to Toronto for the Canadian National Exhibition and in 1982 to Jersey to celebrate the week-long festival commemorating the Battle of the Flowers. Although still a Cpl Bugler.. he was immensely proud of fulfilling his ambition of becoming a Drum Major, a position he filled admirably.. leading the band on hundreds of occasions including Colours and Divisions, under the baton of another Bandmaster Rodney Williamson. Charlie’s favoured pastimes while at Dartmouth were fishing and playing cards.. especially euchre.

Charlie passed his Senior Command Course but struggled to get through his B1’s exam, following a gap of twenty-years he was drafted back to the Royal Marines School of Music Staff Band Corps of Drums at Deal following Easter leave of 1983. Charlie moved his family in to married quarters on Freemens Way, before departing with the band to St Kitts.. Staff Band were accompanying Princess Margaret on her visit in ceremonies to mark the islands’ full independence from Great Britain.
Charlie’s concluding draft was a return to the West Country with the Royal Marines Band Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, he would go on to finish his career at the barracks.. retiring from the Royal Marines in 1987. Following his discharge from the Band Service, the Cowling family made their home at Dukes Crescent in Exmouth. Charlie found employment with Securicor plc which at the time was one of the United Kingdom's largest security businesses, following his spell in the security industry he went to work for delivery magnate DHL.

Charlie and his family suffered a devastating loss when Pauline sadly passed away in August 2006. Charlie suffered with ill health himself.. he was forced to contend with heart problems for many years and was cared for by his loving family.. a family that in addition to his sons and their wives included four grandchildren. Besides his cardiac issues, he later developed the mentally crippling Alzheimer’s disease.

Charlie and David Langmead met for the first time in forty-five years when they both attended a Buglers reunion at Exmouth about 2015, David was a little upset as Charlie didn't recognise him at first. Gary Powell told him who he was... Charlie grabbed hold of him and said, “At last.. I’ve met you again before I go”, David said “Go where ?”... Charlie just smiled.

David ‘Charlie’ Cowling sadly passed away following a determined fight on 18th November 2019 aged 72, just a few days before his and Pauline’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. Charlie’s Funeral service was held at the East Devon Crematorium, Whimple Exeter on Wednesday 4th December. Gary Powell paid tribute with a eulogy to Charlie and Bugler Daryl Williams played Last Post & Reveille. Charlie’s wake was held at the Clinton Arms in nearby Littleham.

RIP Charlie

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