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The Airmen's Stories - Sub/Lt.(FAA) W R Nowell


William Ronald Nowell was born on 26th March 1916 in Richmond, Surrey. His father, at the time of his marriage in 1908, was a Commercial Traveller. He served in the Army in the First World War. WR Nowell carried out his elementary flying training at 23 E&RFTS Rochester.

He moved on to 1 FTS Leuchars for No. 5 Course, which ran from 4th September 1939 to 13th January 1940.


He married Cora Winifred on 14th October 1939 at Hurstbourne Priors Church.

Above image courtesy of


He joined 804 Squadron at Hatston on 16th June, flying Sea Gladiators on dockyard defence. On 14th July Nowell was told to be at Abbotsinch on the 20th, with tropical kit. He embarked on the carrier HMS Argus on the 20th and it sailed from Greenock on the 23rd, with twelve Hurricanes and two Skuas aboard, heading for Gibraltar.

From there, on the 31st, the carrier sailed for Malta, heavily escorted. At dawn on 2nd August the Hurricanes took off in two groups of six, each led by a Skua, flown by an RAF pilot and navigated in one case, by a marine pilot and in the other by a naval pilot, Nowell. His Skua crashed on landing at Luqa but both he and his pilot were unhurt.

Nowell and the marine pilot, Captain KL Ford, were attached to 431 Flight to crew the undamaged Skua on reconnaissance sorties but it proved unsuitable for the task.

Nowell returned to Gibraltar in mid-November. He led another six Hurricanes off the Argus on the 17th, again in a Skua but this time as pilot. Two of the Hurricanes were lost en route, when their fuel was exhausted.

In 1943 Nowell was serving with 820 Squadron, in 1950 he was SO (Air) in HMS Daedalus, in 1953 he was in HMS Eagle and in 1954 was in 750 Squadron at Culdrose.

He retired on 29th July 1958 as a Lieutenant-Commander.

Nowell died on 2nd December 1976.




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