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The Airmen's Stories - F/O R A McGowan


Roy Andrew McGowan was born on 29th December 1917 in Bristol and joined the newly-formed RAFVR in March 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He began training at 2 E&RFTS Filton and soloed in April.

At the request of the Air Ministry McGowan’s employers released him for six months from December 1938 for continuous training with the RAF. He joined 66 Squadron at Duxford, was commissioned in late March 1939 and posted to 46 Squadron at Digby.




With war looking more likely, McGowan’s attachment, due to end in June, was extended and he was still with 46 at the outbreak of war. On 30th November 1939 he moved to 610 Squadron at Wittering. Due to return to 46 Squadron in March 1940, McGowan was diverted to ferry Gladiators to Turnhouse, where they were picked up by 263 Squadron for eventual use in Norway.

McGowan returned to Digby and found 46 was also destined for Norway. He and other pilots of the squadron sailed from Aberdeen to Harstad, whilst 46 embarked its Hurricanes on HMS Glorious and flew them off to Bardufoss on 26th May 1940. Soon after McGowan’s arrival, the decision to evacuate Norway was made and he re-embarked on 8th June and returned to the UK without having done any flying.


Reformed at Digby on 15th June 1940, the squadron supported 11 Group and joined 12 Group formations. The squadron moved south to Stapleford on 1st September.

Roy McGowan was shot down over Chatham on September 15th 1940 in Hurricane R4182. He was taken initially to St Bartholemews hospital in Rochester where his injuries were recorded as 'Serious burns to Face, both arms and hands and both legs and a wound to his left ankle'.

He remained at St Bartholemews until 18th October when he was transferred to the RAF Hospital at Halton. He was transferred from RAF Halton to the Queen Elizabeth hospital at East Grinstead on 6th December and underwent skin grafts to both eyes thus earning his place as a Guinea Pig.


Above: (L to R): P/O W Lapkowski, P/O AR Zatonski, F/O RA McGowan, F/O HG Hardman probably taken while all were convalescing.


In May 1941 McGowan was back on limited flying duties and was posted to Martlesham Heath as Officer i/c Airfield Control. He later instructed at 57 OTU Hawarden.

McGowan was loaned to the RNZAF in June 1942 and based in Wellington, as Ops II, to assist in the formation of Kittyhawk squadrons and setting up Fighter Operations Control. He returned to the UK in late 1943 and was posted to CGS Sutton Bridge for a Spitfire course at the Fighter Wing.

McGowan was then given command of the Fighter Armament Practice Camp at Peterhead, later moving to 53 OTU Kirton-in-Lindsey, to command 3 (Gunnery) Squadron there.

In December 1944 McGowan was posted to Italy and joined 8 (SAAF) Wing, as a supernumerary Squadron Leader, and he flew operationally in Spitfires until the end of the war. He was then posted to 239 Wing in Italy, as Squadron Leader Admin, and returned from there to the UK for demobilisation in November 1945.

After demobilistaion he joined BEA and then in 1954 became the Asia/Pacific Regional Director of IATA, based in Singapore.

After retirement in 1980 he and his wife Mary, whom he'd met in Singapore, moved to New Zealand settling firstly in Kerikeri, latterly in Tauranga.

McGowan attended the unveiling of the monument in 2005.

He died in New Zealand on 20th March 2012.


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