Finding wee Paddy – The Incredible true story of the discovery of a lost soldier’s grave in Shanghai

On the 24th October 1937, 25-year-old Rifleman Patrick McGowan of Londonderry was killed by fire from a Japanese aircraft whilst out on patrol with the Royal Ulster Rifles in Shanghai. His death sent shockwaves around the globe, causing a political outcry as the world teetered on the brink of international conflict.

Such was the high profile nature of the incident Private McGowan’s funeral held a week later was one of the largest Shanghai had ever seen. McGowan was buried with full military honours in a service attended by key military personnel from across the globe.

Tragically, as China sought to remove all symbols of the years of colonial oppression, Paddy’s resting place, along with those of thousands of foreign nationals were lost.

Almost 60 years later a monumental two decade long fight was undertaken by his niece Sara Moran. Having listened to her parents telling the tragic story of Paddy when she was a little girl, in later life she became determined to uncover what had happened. Undertaking battles for information with the Chinese government, reams of letters sent to the foreign office and finally being informed by the Chinese authorities that his body was ‘under a carpark’ she decided to enlist the help of her local paper, The Derry News, and to write a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. This pushed the government to enlist the help of a military historian, Dr Mark Felton, based in Shanghai to try and complete the seemingly impossible task.

Through Dr Felton’s incredible detective work, after being lost for 75 years, the final resting place of Paddy McGowan was found in the Song Qing Ling Cemetery in Shanghai. So thorough was the work carried out by Dr Felton that he was also about to discover the graves of three other Royal Ulster Rifles who had been killed with serving out in Shanghai. McGowan and his fellow Ulster Rifles were subsequently honoured on a visit to Shanghai by Rear Admiral Matthew Parr & Captain Rupert Hollins of HMS Daring, accompanied by Consul General Brian Davidson.