LAWRENCE MILBERT BOWEN

Laid to rest at the Field of Honour.

 

Born: 7th September 1915; Toronto, Canada.

Died: 3rd September 1941; age: 26; aircraft accident, Rectory Lane, Kirton, Suffolk.

Residence: 286, Winona Drive, Toronto, Ontario.

Employment: a Biller/Clerk at Smith Transport, 105, Villiers Street, Toronto – 1935 – 1940.

Enlistment Details: Location: Toronto; Date: 1st May 1940; age: 24; Religion: Roman Catholic. Signed up for the duration of war. Next of Kin: mother – Mrs Margaret Bowen, of 65, Boston Avenue, Toronto. Height: 5ft 4ins, fair complexion, blue eyes & fair hair.

Hobbies & Pastimes: Rugby, Hockey, Wrestling & Baseball.

References:

Mr. Murray, a Police Officer, 71, Boston Avenue, Toronto.

Mr Lawrence, 67, Boston Avenue, Time Keeper.

 

Rank: Flight Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; Service Number: R65785.

Regiment: Royal Canadian Air Force, 102 (R.A.F.) Squadron.

 

Grave Reference:

C.31.24.

Ipswich Old Cemetery,

Ipswich.

 

Relatives Notified & Address: Son of William & Margaret Bowen, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada; husband of Elsie Ada Bowen, of Toronto.

 

CENSUS

 

1921   230, Gerard Street, Ward 2, Toronto East, Ontario, Canada.

 

Lawrence was 5 years old and living with his parents, brothers, sister-in-law and nephew.

William Albert Bowen, 41, an Engineer, born Belleville, Ontario.

Margaret Bowen (nee McEvoy), 43, born Belleville.

Eugene Wilfred Bowen, 16, a Bell Boy, born Toronto.

Leonard Bowen, 12, a Student, born Toronto.

Frank Bowen, 11, a Student, born Toronto.

Clarence Alexander Bowen, 18, a Labourer, born Toronto.

Winifred Bowen (nee Bontoft), 17, born Toronto.

William Bowen, 11 months, born Toronto.

Lawrence’s father was a Methodist, the rest of the family were Roman Catholic.

 

Lawrence attended:

St. Joseph’s Public School.

De La Salle College – “Oaklands” – Chemistry & Ancient History.

Eastern Commence – Shorthand & Bookkeeping.

 

While at the 4th Bombing School, Jarvis, Ontario, Lawrence sought permission from his Commanding Officer to marry Elsie Dezorzi. He had previously asked in Montreal – 15th November 1940. Letters were sent to Elsie’s parish church to determine her character and that of her family. Permission was granted.

 

On the 26th December 1940, Toronto, Ontario, Lawrence married Elsie Ada Dezorzi. Ceremony performed by the Rev. J.F. Kehoe.

 

On the 14th October 1941, Mrs Elsie A. Koslosonek (formerly Bowen), received her late husband’s Memorial Cross (engraved 6th October 1941).

On the 25th October 194, Elsie received the Royal Message.

At her home of 138, Sorauren Avenue, Toronto 3, Ontario, Elsie received the Memorial Bar on the 25th April 1949.

 

 

3rd September 1941

 

Aircraft: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley; Serial Number: Z6946, took off at 20:56 from R.A.F. Topcliffe, North Yorkshire on the 3rd September 1941 bound for Frankfurt, Germany. On the return journey from the bombing operation, the aircraft caught electric cables and crashed at 03:55 in to two houses in Rectory Lane, Kirton, Suffolk, bringing down the overhead cables and fracturing a water main. The aircraft bounced off ‘June Cottage’ (slightly injuring a 4 year old girl), and ‘The Haven’ and landed in the garden.

CREW:

Seward Terry Modeland; Flight Sergeant/Pilot; age 19; R.C.A.F.

 

Jackson Corwin Nixon; Pilot Officer/Air Observer; age 23; R.C.A.F.

 

Alexander Frederick Jaggers; Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner: age 21; R.A.F.V.R.

Donald Machell Bozer; Sergeant/2nd Pilot; age 25; R.C.A.F.

Lawrence Milbert Bowen; Flight Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; age 26; R.C.A.F.

 

The Canadian crew members, Donald Bozer, Lawrence Bowen, Jackson Nixon and Seward Modeland were laid to rest at the Field of Honour, Ipswich Old Cemetery. Alexander Jaggers was laid to rest at the Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey.

In thankful remembrance five pews to each of the five crewman were installed at St. Mary & St. Martin Church, Kirton, Suffolk. The pews were made from English oak and designed by Mr. Allan Woolnough. A Dedication Service was held on the 4th June 1950, at 3pm. Officiating Ministers, Archdeacon of Ipswich The Venerable T.R.Browne, The Reverend W.J.S. Weir, Rector of Kirton & Falkenham and Pastor F.J. Burton, Congregational Minister.

A family note:

Roy Walker,

I was born after the war, so never knew my cousin Alex, and all I knew of him was that he had been in the RAF and was killed during the war, but I do recall as a young boy seeing the photos of him in his flying gear which were on his parents, my Aunt and Uncle’s, living room wall. A few years ago, like so many people, I started to research my family history, it was regretfully too late to gain firsthand accounts of Alex, as his immediate family and others who would have known him had all passed on some years previously.

I was then reliant on websites relating to the RAF and wartime events, so started to gather information about Alex and the crash that killed him, which was mainly facts from official records and not about Alex as a person. It was when I found a website where to my astonishment a comrade and close friend of Alex, Ed Cooke, had uploaded his wartime memories a few years earlier and included photos of him and Alex. From the website forum I was able to get a message to Ed, who at that time was 91 and lived in the USA, but wondered, was he still alive? Would I get a reply? It was with much relief that I received an email from Ed who told me many stories of his friendship and time spent with Alex and what he was like – a fun loving young man. In 1941 Ed returned from being on leave to get married, only to learn that Alex had been killed in the crash at Kirton. Having found out more about Alex’s life and the crash that ended it, we visited Kirton for the Remembrance Day service at the church in November 2011 and after the service we spoke to a number of villagers who recounted what they knew of the night of 3 September 1941 when the Whitley bomber crashed into the village killing all of the crew. We also spent much of the day with a local historian who has researched many of the planes that had crashed in the area during the war.

So, there is the “official” version of the crash, which you have on your website, and this local version for which much of it has been passed down through families and consequently there is no identifiable source material to confirm much of it.

The plane had been hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire over occupied France when returning from its bombing raid on Frankfurt. The plane had been damaged and was not going to make it back to its base at Topcliffe, Yorkshire so was going to try and land at Martelsham, villagers heard it flying low overhead heading towards Martlesham.  However, the crew were apparently told that they couldn’t land at Martelsham as there were already a number of damaged planes on the runway and they were instructed to ditch the plane at sea, so turned to head back towards Bawdsey, when struggling to maintain height they crashed at Kirton. Much of the debris of the plane was spread over quite a wide area from the damaged house in Rectory Lane and across the village green.

We spoke to the lady that lives in the house that now stands on the site of the crash who told us that when they were having a hedge removed in 1972 that even then parts of the plane and lots of bullets were uncovered.
We were also told that some of the relatives of the Canadian crew had visited the church in 1980 but no one knew exactly from which family.

I emailed Ed, recounting our visit to Kirton and the friendliness of every one we met and talked to and in his reply Ed said  “… it’s nice to know Alex and the crew are still remembered with such a unique memorial.”  Sadly Ed passed away in 2013.

Posted in Second World War

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