My friend Alex Rochead has been looking at the lives WW2 soldiers who are buried in Blantyre Cemeteries. Men who fought and died for the freedom we have today.
James Brown Fowler (service no. R/136319) was born on 8th February 1911 in Bothwell.
His parents Joseph Fowler and Mary Brown who lived at Cemetery Walk in High Blantyre, married in Blantyre on 8th June 1904.
As an adult, he made many sailings back and forth to Canada, including in 1929, 1933, 1934 and 1937 before settling down to live in Toronto working as a bank clerk. However, the outbreak of war changed plans dramatically. On 12th August 1940, he completed his war training as part of the Queens own Rifles of Canada, being discharged that day. He then returned to the UK during WW2 as part of the Canadian Air Force.
A slim man with 32 inch waist, he was 5 foot 8 inches tall and is pictured here.
On 3rd February 1944, he was promoted to the rank of Warrant First Officer.
Flying with the Royal Canadian Air Force, it appears that James died in an accident when his Halifax aircraft had to land in the water in the North Sea off the coast of England on 16 February 1944. He had been on a nighttime mission.
After his bombing raid on Germany, the plane had been returning back to England, but damaged, it was unable to lower the undercarriage. This caused significant drag on the homeward journey, consuming fuel faster and leaving the crew short to get to their airbase. Seeing land approach, they knew they weren’t going to make it to a runway and deciding a sea landing may be safer than crashing in the dark on land, they turned the aircraft around, ordered the plane to be abandoned and ditched it into water some 800 yards from the coast.
After giving out a faint radio signal, the aircraft was at 1000 feet when it was abandoned. Jumping by parachute, the bomber aimer made it safely to land. However, the rest of the crew, including James did not survive, falling to deep sea. Without little hope of rescue and in complete darkness, there was little that could be done. He was just 33.
“His body recovered from the sea at Hunmanby, East Yorks 18 February 1944“.
There is so much information available about this airman. At the time of his death his mother had moved to Glasgow, by then a widow. James’s body was brought back to Scotland and buried at High Blantyre on 23rd February 1944, in the Cemetery, not far from where his parents home had been. May he rest in peace.
With thanks to Alex for all the remarkable documentation which includes photos, accident reports, letters to the family, discharge records, grave information and much more than even featured here.