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Thread: Flt Lt Bill Bowden, 60 Squadron - 1st RAF POW of Japanese 8/12/41

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    Default Flt Lt Bill Bowden, 60 Squadron - 1st RAF POW of Japanese 8/12/41

    Canadian pilot survived 24 hours in the sea after his Blenheim had been shot down; his two crewmen were killed, but Bowden was picked up by a Japanese destroyer and taken to Tokyo. Spent next 4 years as POW.

    I would assume that he would have provided a report following repatriation to UK. Does anyone know of its existence?

    Cheers
    Brian

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    Brian,

    I have Bill's group of medals, bought at auction some years ago. They had previously been in the collection of a Birmingham collector for many years. I have a photocopy of his Japanese POW Record which shows his movements between camps but never came across any interrogation report written on his return to the UK. That is not to say that it doesn't exist somewhere. He had an unusual career post-war - surprisingly returning to the RAF but in the RAF Regiment. He later transferred back to the GD (Flying) Branch and was killed when the Anson he was piloting crashed on 29 May 1951.

    He was born on 18 October 1918 in Ottawa but by the time of his enlistment he gave his address as his parents' home in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

    Jim

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    Are you aware of this link, Brian, http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources...2D/bowden.html. It also includes Bowden's photo. Some of the details come from the Wiltshire Times, and it crosses my mind that the paper, or the Wilts Gazette & Herald, might have carried an obituary.

    Assuming I have the correct man, Chapter 2 of Michael Cunningham's book Hell on Earth: Sandakan - Australia's greatest war tragedy includes an interview with him (https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...Bowden&f=false

    (Another) Brian

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    The name sounds familiar - but very likely the same "Billy Bowden" that Geoffrey Morley Mowers refers to quite a bit in his autobiography "Flying Blind". (And also mentioned here http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries...d/Wapiti-K1283 ). Bowden was with 27 Sqn and likely that he converted to Blenheims


    Edit: Yes Same "W E Bowden" - http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-...2/posts?page=4

    Disaster struck on June 26, 1939, a cloudless day with the atmosphere of a blast furnace. My friend Flight Lt. W.E. "Billy" Bowden and I had been scheduled to practice dive-bombing on the nearby range. We had trained together in England, and we shared the exotic dream of adventurous flight that we had acquired from our reading about WW I air heroes. Although it was frowned on, we decided to take off in formation, with our eight, 20-pound bombs tucked under our wings-determined to show our skills as ace pilots.The takeoff went fairly well. Kohat, looking civilized and secure beneath us, sat under a range of hills that stretched southwest toward Miramshah and the Afghan frontier. Even in June, the British garrison playing fields were watered and green. The little town shimmered in the heat; the golden dome of a mosque counterpointed white, flat-roof buildings. The road to Peshawar runs north, winding up the Kohat Pass and disappearing beneath the nose of the "Old Lady"-a curious rock formation that resembles the profile of a toothless hag.
    We separated to drop our bombs on the white circles that were provided as aiming points. Now it was time for the formation landing, which Billy was to lead and I was to follow. This was not only strictly forbidden to junior pilots, but we also had never tried it; however, youngsters who imagined that they were future air aces didn't care about such restrictions. The updrafts and downdrafts caused by the sun's extreme heat striking the ground increased as we turned in to land. At 500 feet, I had to struggle with the controls to keep in position. If formation flying is to be successful, the lead pilot has to maintain a steady throttle setting. If he uses insufficient motor, the formation pilot has no power differential to play with. As we approached the ground, Billy throttled back too much and I began to gain on him. Crossing the airfield boundary, a severe downdraft yanked us both toward the earth. As I sailed past him, Billy looked at me with something near panic on his face. It was a fateful glance, for he ceased to concentrate on his own airspeed.
    Billy's Wapiti suddenly dropped heavily to the ground.
    I had been concentrating on keeping formation, but by half watching my airspeed, I had kept in the glide. By the time I had reacted to Billy's crash, I was already on the ground, and we were wingtip to wingtip. His undercarriage collapsed sideways and he slowed to port directly in my path. The Wapiti had a way of lurching to the left once speed began to fall off. As he swung across in front of me, I pushed on full left rudder to avoid a crash. To keep straight at that point in my landing, I needed full right rudder, so it is easy to see that I encouraged the beast to do what comes naturally. My Wapiti turned away ecstatically in a sharp tightening are to the left.
    As the Wapiti had no brakes, I was in a hopeless situation. I applied opposite rudder, but nothing happened. My parabola soon achieved a certain sweeping inevitability. I opened my throttle to give the rudder more bite, but all that happened was that the speed increased and the turn tightened. I gave up the idea as hopeless and throttled back. Simultaneously, a bowstring snapped beneath me with a twanging noise.
    As my speed fell off, the turn miraculously straightened out, and I was back at the same position on the grass airfield as I had originally touched down on. I had run full circle and was now moving purposefully toward Billy's stationary Wapiti. I thought a double crash was inevitable, but 20 yards short of impact, my undercarriage collapsed, the starboard wing slumped to the ground, and I came to rest. There sat our two aspirants to flying honors, close together in a corner of the airfield, a tragic heap of splintered wood and crumpled canvas.
    In minutes, the previously deserted field was filled with trucks that bore technicians and some jeering pilots from 27 and 60 Squadrons. Everybody loves a crash, and this was a double event-two for the price of one! Billy and I stood glumly in the afternoon heat while a warrant officer and his staff made notes of damage, measured distances, set out fire extinguishers and did all the melancholy tasks that follow a crash. At the subsequent court of inquiry, Billy had his logbook endorsed for "gross carelessness." I got off without censure because the locknut on one of my cross-bracing wires had been incorrectly adjusted, and that caused the wire to break loose and collapse the undercarriage. The senior pilots, however, always believed us equally guilty of incompetence, cluelessness and having our fingers firmly up our fundamental orifices.
    The shame of this incident colored our lives for as long as we remained in India, but the march of history was soon to erase such trivialities. War broke out in September of that year, and I soon found myself flying Hawker Hurricanes in the Western Desert of Egypt. There, I spent my time dodging Messerschmitt 109s and ground flak-my greatest fear being that cannon shells would puncture my gas tanks and that my face would be burned off as I attempted to leave the cockpit through the inferno.

    Last edited by Jagan; 8th August 2018 at 03:28.

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    Hi guys

    Apologies for the delay in thanking all for your help once again.

    Cheers
    Brian

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    Brian,

    A copy of the front page of his liberation questionnaire is online, but is fairly scant in detail:
    https://lq-cofepow.org/collections/b...wden-william-c
    The boldest measures are the safest.

    http://www.chinditslongcloth1943.com/index.html

  7. The Following User Says Thank You to bamboo43 For This Useful Post:

    Jagan (18th November 2018)

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    Many thanks, Bamboo

    Scant indeed!

    Cheers
    Brian

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