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The Airmen's Stories - F/O A V Gowers


Arthur Vincent Gowers was born at Chelmsford on 18th June 1913, the son of Herbert Henry and Hilda Mary Gowers.

He was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Colchester from 1923 to 1928. At some time later he was employed at the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Works at Chelmsford.

In June 1932 Gowers joined the HAC as an infantry private. He was discharged at his own request in June 1933 when he joined the RASC (TA). He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in March 1934 but resigned in March 1936.



Gowers joined the RAFVR on 5th July 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He applied for a short service commission in the RAF, was accepted and in late August 1937 he went to 13 E&RFTS for initial training, which he successfully completed.

Commissioned in October, Gowers was posted to 5 FTS Sealand on 6th November 1937 and gained his flying badge on 18th February 1938. At the end of the course he went to 26 MU Cardington on 4th June for flying duties.

He joined 85 Squadron at Debden on 10th August 1938. He married Joan Renee Church at Newmarket in mid-1939.

The squadron went to France at the outbreak of war.

Gowers returned to England in April 1940 after an attack of jaundice. He rejoined the squadron in early May but had not fully recovered and was taken off flying and sent back to hospital. He retumed again to England and then rejoined 85 after it was withdrawn to Debden on 22nd May.

In August 1940 the squadron was again at Debden. On the 18th Gowers possibly destroyed a Ju87 on a patrol over Canterbury. The next day 85 moved to Croydon to relieve 111 Squadron. On the 28th Gowers damaged a Me110, on the 30th he destroyed a Me110 and on the 31st two Me109s.

In combat with Me109s over Oxted on 1st September, Gowers' Hurricane, V7343, was badly damaged and he baled out with badly-burned hands and slight wounds to a hand and a foot. He was taken to the LCC Mental Hospital at Caterham for treatment.

When Gowers rejoined 85 Squadron, on 28th December, it had gone over to night patrols. In March 1941 he went to Watchfield for a Blind Approach course. At the end of his tour Gowers was awarded the DFC (gazetted 1st July 1941) and attached to RAF Kenley on 25th July for Control Room duties.

The attachment ceased on 21st October 1941, Gowers went to 56 0TU Sutton Bridge for a refresher course on 14th November and then joined 504 Squadron at Ballyhalbert as a Flight Commander. On 16th February 1942 he was posted to Air HQ Far East but after a short time there his burned hands were badly affected by the hot climate and he was admitted to hospital in Delhi on 1st April 1942.

After being discharged on 7th May Gowers returned to the UK and went to 53 OTU, Llandow to convert to Typhoons, after which he joined 56 Squadron at Snailwell on 8th August 1942 as a supernumerary. On the 27th he had a crash, writing off a Typhoon, and was admitted to Norwich Hospital, leaving there on the 29th for Station Sick Quarters at Coltishall.

Gowers was posted to Church Fenton on 20th November 1942 as an Acting Squadron Leader to take command of 183 Squadron, forming there with Typhoons. On 19th April 1943 he led the squadron on its first operation, a bombing attack on the power station at Yainville, France, escorted by the Kenley Wing.

The next operation did not take place until 14th May when eight Typhoons were escorted by 486 (NZ) Squadron to bomb Triqueville aerodrome. On 4th June 1943 183 Squadron moved to Harrowbeer and later in the month Gowers did a Combined Operations course. The squadron moved to Predannack on 13th October.

In the early evening of 24th October 1943 Gowers led an attack on the 6,000 ton motor vessel Munsterland, carrying rare metals for the V1 and V2 weapons, in Cherbourg Harbour. Heavy flak was encountered and Gowers' Typhoon was seen to go down in flames just outside the mole. Two other 183 Typhoons were also shot down.

Gowers is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 118.


(Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner).

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