Farewell to Mr Cowdale

After 38 years of outstanding service, the ASWC bids farewell to one of the civil service’s most outstanding Scientific Advisors.

One of the scientists who moved from RAF High Wycombe was Mr Alan Cowdale, who has been the reason for another big milestone at the ASWC recently. Alan officially retired on 2nd October 2020 after 38 years in the Civil Service.

After studying for a Masters in Operational Research at University of Birmingham, he started his career as a Scientific Officer at RAF Northwood in October 1982 working on Mk2 Nimrod. Successive tours included working with the Buccaneer Fleet and at Bentley Priory, as well as some time with the Royal Navy. Notably, he was asked to be the Scientific Advisor to the War Headquarters during Operation HAMDEN developing the first Collateral Damage Model.

He formerly took over as the Senior Scientific Advisor at the ASWC on promotion to Band B1 in January 1999. However, during his years at the ASWC, he has seldom remained at his desk, deploying as Air Scientific Advisor for Operation HERRICK 2001, TELIC 2003, ELLAMY 2011 and SHADER 2014.
Outside of the military domain, he enjoyed the professional challenges of developing analysis and wargaming tools to predict fire events as part of Operation FRESCO (military contingency support for the Firemans’ strike in 2002).

He has also completed several studies, one of which looked at the competency requirements for Remotely Piloted Air Systems Operators and has devoted a lot of time organising staff rides to promote Analysis Heritage and STEM events.

Throughout his time at the ASWC, Alan has pushed for Operational Analysts to be recognised and he said, ‘What I have tried to do is to recruit and train good quality analysts and develop models, tools and data to be able to produce useful analysis inside the timeframe of the task. By having staff out at some of the key trials units and organisations doing useful work, developing tools for the front-line, teaching on the AWS courses, supporting Squadron Exercises and deploying on Operations, it gets the operator community used to having an Operational Analyst with them’.

Despite his clear impact on the development of Operational Analysis, it would be remiss not to mention the impact he has had on the Cricket pitch too. Alan has spent a large part of his time in the Civil Service playing cricket at each Station he has been based at. He expands, ‘I love playing, it’s a great opportunity to meet other people on the base and to visit other sites and locations. For many years Civil Servants were only allowed to play in League matches, not in the RAF or Royal Navy Cup competitions, but a few years ago the rules were changed and I was fortunate to be the first Civil Servant to be a member of an RAF Cup winning team’. Fittingly, Alan was given a cricket guard of honour when he left the field after his last game for RAF Waddington on 15 September 2020. A successful match, which saw the team win against RAF Northolt.

Speaking about his lifelong work in the scientific domain, Alan said, ‘When I was first introduced to Operational Research many of the academic examples were from the analysis pioneers working on the Home Chain radar systems and later out with Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Commands during World War 2. Both as a student and as a junior analyst I had the opportunity to meet some of these giants in our field and to hear first-hand about their amazing work in the various Operational Research Sections in the 1930’s and 40’s. It has consequently been an enormous privilege for me to be part of their successor organisations and work with immensely talented analysts on some of the big technical challenges facing the RAF’.

In his honour, the ASWC have named their largest conference room after him (rightt) and on his final day (below) he had received a socially distanced, but very fond, farewell!

So, what’s next for Alan? He plans to spend his retirement in Shrewsbury to be nearer family and put some golf clubs he bought 10 years ago to use at last!