Kevin has passed on the sad news of the passing of Sir Douglas Charles Lowe, aged 95.
Arriving at the Squadron, then at Newmarket, at the very end of January 1943, Douglas flew between February and May 1943, completing 19 Ops, which can be viewed on their crew page here.
On the crew’s 11th Op, on the 8th of March 1943 to Nurenburg, both Douglas and his Second Pilot, Charles Eddy, were injured.
From the 541 diary:
Stirling 1 BK646 captained by P/O Lowe, was attacked by an enemy aircraft near Saarbrucken on the return journey. The enemy aircraft opened fire with cannon and a stream of tracer came into the cockpit, one exploding near the second pilot’s leg. Corkscrew tactics were adopted, but after seven minutes the enemy aircraft was lost. The only casualties were the second pilot, who was wounded in the leg and the Captain, who had slight face cuts. The aircraft successfully returned to base.
The combat report adds extra detail to this incident:
North of Saarbrucken 00.30 hrs 11,000 feet
Stirling Mk I was on homeward journey having bombed its target when at a position 49° 27′ N., 07° 10 ‘ E. approx. 10 miles North of Saarbrucken, a twin engined E/A identified as a Ju.88. Our aircraft was on a course of 285° M. at a height of 11,000 feet with an I.A.S.. Vertical visibility to aircraft level was poor there being a heavy ground mist but above it was a clear star lit night.
The Rear Gunner sighted a Ju 88 passing 300 feet beneath the tail travelling from Starboard to port at right angle to the heading of our aircraft. E/A carried a single white light about amidships. At the time of sighting our aircraft was gently weaving, this was immediately converted into a corkscrew. when E/A was seen. Three seconds after the first E/A had been sighted an attack was delivered by a second E/A from the starboard quarter below firing cannon. This E/A was not seen by any member of the crew, the position of an attack being substantiated by strikes on our aircraft.
After the attack the E/A carrying a white light dropped astern to approximately 800 yards, keeping in contact with our aircraft for five minutes and was finally lost to sight and was not seen again. During the encounter our gunners did not open fire. The pilot in out aircraft is of the opinion that they make have been silhouetted against a large cone of searchlights over Saarbrucken. There was no flak activity and no ground lights indication our track.
Cannon shell burst in the Pilot’s cocktail wounding the second pilot in the leg and starting a small fire on the starboard side of the instrument panel. All lighting in the aircraft failed except cell-lights which came on automatically. The starboard flap and elevators were also damaged.
On the 16th of April, the crew’s 15th Op, this time to Ludwigshaven, the crew crashed on return. Having experienced very accurate Anti Aircraft fire over the target, on return Douglas discovered that the throttles were jammed open. Despite crashing into a partially built aircraft hanger and completely wrecking the Stirling they were in. All of the crew escaped, but not without injuries……
He received the Distinguished Flying Cross at the end of his tour, the citation read as follows:
Flight Lieutenant Lowe has proved to be an outstanding captain of aircraft throughout many operational missions over such heavily defended targets as Hamburg, Essen and Berlin. From these sorties he has frequently brought back photographs of the target area. On more than one occasion he has successfully evaded attacks by enemy night fighters. He has also brought his aircraft back to base when almost disabled by anti-aircraft fire. His splendid work has been an inspiration to the Squadron.
He was confirmed in his rank of flying officer on 23 December 1943, and received a mention in dispatches in January 1945. Lowe was promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) on 1 January 1945. In the 1946 Birthday Honours, Lowe was decorated with the Air Force Cross (AFC). He remained in the RAF post-war, being awarded a permanent commission in the rank of flying officer on 1 July 1946, with a subsequent promotion to flight lieutenant on 4 July.
Lowe was promoted to Ssquadron Leader on 1 July 1952 and to Wing Commander on 1 January 1958. Promoted to Group Captain on 1 July 1962, he served as Station Commander RAF Cranwell from November 1963 to 1965. With his promotion to air commodore on 1 July 1966, he attained air officer rank. He was promoted to Air Vice-Marshal on 1 January 1970 and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), Military Division, in the 1971 Birthday Honours.
In 1973 Lowe was appointed Air Officer Commanding No. 18 Group and he continued in this post until 1975. Thereafter, he was promoted to air chief marshal and was appointed the Controller of Aircraft: he remained in that post until late 1982. Lowe was the Chief of Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence from 1982 to 1983. He retired on 22 August 1983.
You can read Sir Douglas’ obituary in the Telegraph here.
and watch Sir Douglas give an interview in March 2013, then aged 91, to a School Report team, about his time in the RAF here.