Colonel John Edward Owen, CBE, CEng, FIEE, FIERE, FMS, FBIM 
Army Officer & Police Force Administrator
(Aberdare Boys’ County Grammar School, 1939-43)

John Edward Owen

John Edward Owen

John (Teddy) Owen was born in Cork in 1928, the son of John (Jack) and Mary May Owen (née McSweeney). John’s father1 was born in Aberaman but brought up in Resolven; in later life, he was employed in the coal industry in the Cynon Valley. The family, which consisted of the parents, three boys2 and a girl, lived at 26 Jenkin Street, Abercwmboi. John attended Capcoch Primary School and after passing the ‘scholarship’ in 1939, moved to Aberdare Boys’ County Grammar School in Trecynon and left in 1943 with a decent handful of O levels. He joined the Army as a boy soldier, training as a boy armourer. In 1946 he entered the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, as a cadet engineering student; in 1950 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the REME. He later became a graduate of the Institute of Electrical Engineering.

John met Jean Pendlebury whilst at Woolwich and they married in 1951. They had three children – a boy and two girls3.

As a captain in the 1950’s he served in the MOD, Malta and Aden, and in the 60s, as a major, he commanded 6 Infantry Brigade Workshop in Germany. In 1966 he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Commander, REME School of Artillery, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, an appointment requiring expert knowledge of ballistics and electronics in the field of artillery, guided missiles and associated electronic equipment. He then served again in Germany as Commander REME 1st Infantry Division. His last post before his retirement in 1972 was Colonel Assistant Director of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, responsible for repair planning policy for the Army.

John joined the Metropolitan Police as Deputy Chief Engineer in 1972. An apocryphal story is that he was commiserating with a very senior officer who had been rejected for the post, apologised that he had to get away and went straight across to New Scotland Yard and applied for the post and got it! By 1976, he was Chief Engineer, a post which he held for ten years when there were considerable advances in the fields of electronics and telecommunications. He had overall responsibility for nearly 2,000 staff, handling a wide variety of key support functions including radio and telecommunications and the force’s command and control system. In 1986 he became Deputy Receiver4 where he was responsible for departments covering the finances of the force and the management of the civil staff of over 16,000. He was awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours 1989 just before his death in Surrey the following month.

John died in February 1989 after a long, gallantly fought battle with cancer. A memorial service was held in Westminster Cathedral in May 1989.

  1. John’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 (senior) 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 until she died in 1973.
  2. One of John Edward Owen’s brothers, Michael C. Owen, also had a career in the army, retiring as Brigadier in 1991. Michael Owen has an entry in the Former Pupils section of this website.
  3. John Edward Owen’s elder daughter, Jennifer, followed her father by being awarded a CBE in 2010.
  4. The Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, for whom John Owen was a deputy, had the role of Chief Financial Officer. Also holding the title of Director of Finance, the post holder was responsible for the Finance, Property Services, and Technology Departments of the force. The Receiver post was abolished in 2000, and replaced by a post with the title Director of Resources.

MCO & CR. October 2014.