Brigadier Michael C. Owen, FInstPS, MIExpE, MBIM. 
Army Officer
(Aberdare Boys’ County Grammar School, 1948-53)

Mike Owen

Brigadier Michael C. Owen,
circa 1991

Mike Owen was born in Abercwmboi in 1936, the son of John (Jack) and Mary (May) Owen. Mike’s father1 was born in Aberaman, and was employed in the coal industry in the Cynon Valley. The family, which consisted of the parents, three boys2 and a girl, lived in Jenkin Street, Abercwmboi. Mike attended Capcoch Primary School and after passing the ‘scholarship’ in 1948, moved to Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School in Trecynon. Whilst there, he was in Tudur house and played in the House rugby team. He still remembers his teachers clearly, and attended the school when for most of that period the Headmaster was T. Brinley Reynolds. Mike enjoyed his time at school greatly and left with a decent handful of O levels in 1953, having decided that he did not wish to go to university.

Initially he got a job in Treforest Silk Printers, but only to fill in for one year until he was 17 when he could join the Army. After 15 months in the ranks he made the rank of corporal. With an eye to a career in the Army he applied to, and passed the selection board for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where he arrived in January 1956. He found his two years there were quite fantastic; there was a great deal of sport and fun mixed with hard physical and mental work. On completion of his course he was commissioned into the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in December 1957.

Although modestly claiming that luck was by his side once more, for the first three years he was posted to Germany, promoted Captain and married Pat, a teacher he met there. Immediately after the wedding he stared a year long Ammunition Technical Officers’ course (ATO) and for the next nine years worked as an ATO on bomb disposal, primarily improvised explosive devices, in the UK, Singapore, Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah during the confrontation with Indonesia), and Berlin. It was an exciting time for him, although his new wife was not too enchanted when he got home very frightened or, on a couple of occasions, hurt.

In 1969 he had a short tour in the Ministry of Defence, (MOD), before attending the Army Staff College for a year during 1970. This was followed by another two years in the MOD and two years commanding a company in Germany, which included an operational tour for 4 months in Cyprus during the Turkish invasion. By 1975, and all too quickly, he was back at the Staff College as a member of the Directing Staff, teaching with the the rank of Lieutenant Colonel . There followed a return to Germany for two more years, commanding a battalion before yet another tour in the MOD. In 1980 he was promoted Colonel and moved to a new MoD appointment before moving to Holland to a NATO post in 1983.

In 1985 he was promoted to Brigadier as the Director of all the Army ammunition matters including bomb disposal world wide. This proved to be a fascinating job during which time he worked with a young Ammunition Technical Officer to disarm a pipe bomb in the Springfield Road in Belfast, for this, the young officer was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

In 1988 Mike was appointed commander of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, (RAOC), Training Centre and a year later he was back in Germany commanding the RAOC units there, stretching from Antwerp to Berlin.

Mike retired in 1991 after what he considered to be wonderful career in the Army, a career in which he was faithfully supported by Pat, his wife for the past 54 years. Mike and Pat now live in Surrey.

  1. Mike’s father, John Joseph Owen, was born in Aberaman in 1904, but soon afterwards his family moved to Company Street in Resolven where he and his brothers were brought up. John Joseph met his future wife Mary May McSweeney in Cork, Eire, in 1924 whilst he was serving there in the Royal Artillery. The couple married in Cork in 1927 but moved to Abercwmboi in 1931 after John was discharged from the Army. He worked initially at the Deep Duffryn Colliery, Mountain Ash, and finally in the Phurnacite plant in Abercwmboi. He died in 1948. His wife continued to live in Abercwmboi, and died in 1973.
  2. Mike’s oldest brother was John Edward Owen, ABGS 1939-43. Next came Dennis (ABGS 1942-46) and then Nellie (AGGS 1945-48).

    John Edward (Teddy) Owen was born in Cork in 1928. He left ABGS on finishing his O levels and joined the Army as a boy soldier at the Army Apprentice School in Chepstow. He went into the adult service at 18, and later served in the UK, Aden, Malta and Germany. He retired from the army in 1971 as a Colonel and went to work for the Metropolitan Police initially as Assistant Director of Engineering and finally as the Director. He was awarded a CBE just before he died in 1988.

CR. September 2014.