An Airman's Story

Bones in the Belfry home page

    This is the story of my uncle, Reg Rowley, leading up to his service in Lancaster bombers in the second world war. We are fortunate to have letters and photo albums covering his war service time.. Clicking on an image will get you a larger version. The back arrow will get you back to this page. The images you see on this page are a little bit larger than the originals in the album, but the larger versions are still good

    Reg was born in 1914 on a family farm at Bethanga, in north east Victoria. He went to primary school in Bethanga, and then till age 17 at Albury Grammar, where he was school captain and a good all round sportsman. Reg worked on the farm for a while, but by the late thirties he had left. Presumably this was due to a combination of economic necessity, and the practice that the eldest son carried on the farm. (Reg was the second son).

The house
The Woolshed

    During this period hedid a few trips around Victoria by motorbike and car. It must have seemed very different when he saw some of the grand houses and ordered countryside of England

     In 1938 he was working in the post office, and even had a trip to Adelaide with a Melbourne GPO cricket team. In July1938 he joined the Victoria Police force in St Kilda, Melbourne.. In March 41 he did a months morse code training course at Point Cook (he passed at 25 words per minute)

    Reg applied to join the Air Force as air crew in May 41. He actually enlisted in Oct 41 and was sent straight to ITS (Initial Training School) in Somers. This was the start of an 18 months training program

    In April 42 he was posted to Narrandera for Elementary Flight Training School (EFTS). In a letter he talks of an exhausting program including Link Trainers, exams, and low and night flying in Tiger Moths. 60 hours flying time was required to complete the course.

    On 28th of May they went to Bradfield NSW (their embarkation point,)

Embarcation Leave, with parents, siblings, and the author. Reg never got back to Bethanga

    It was nearly a month before they sailed for Canada on 23rd of June. This gave them a chance to explore Sydney and the south coast of NSW, and then Brisbane. This began what looks like a happy but fulfilling time as they combined training with seeing new parts of the world.

    The first page of Reg's album of 42-43 is a photo of a girl, obviously a memory he kept close over the next year and a half

    There are no photos or shore leave until they get to New York. They went across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal, and called at Santiago and Key West on the way.. Either photography was restricted, or Reg has run out of film, as there is only one photo of the journey

    However they had access to the deck, and Philipino stewards, plus organised classes and physical education to keep them occupied. Reg wrote a long letter describing the horseplay that occurred with the crossing the equator ceremonies. Link to full letter . A good natured letting off steam occurred. Towards the end of the letter Reg concluded


    Once they got to US and Canada they had a chance to do a bit of sightseeing before getting down to training

    There is even a photo of sheep. Reg was obviously interested in the different treatment from their farm at home

    However the piper must be paid and now it is training at Dunnville in Canada (about 20 miles north of Niagara Falls). This was SFTS (Senior Flight Training School)

    More flying related snaps

    There is a letter from Dunnville discussing introduction to instrument flying, blacking out during acrobatics, practicing forced landings, etc. It is four pages and an interesting read. However it doesn't extract easily, so if you are interested, go to the full document

    Reg enjoyed the Canadian hospitality during his stay. As later in England,, they sometimes stayed in or visited houses rather grander than those at home

    Training complete, it is time to get your wings, and for Reg's formal photo

    Now it is off to the UK, via Halifax, in the middle of winter. Though this may wave been a blessing, as they traveled across by ship at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic.They disembarked on 8 Jan 1943

    As usual in this story, whenever they arrived anywhere it took the military a few weeks to work out what to do with them, In this case they spent a few weeks at Bournemouth. They also had some leave spent in Devon and Cornwall, visiting Boscastle and Launceston

     These pilots by now were obviously getting soft, so it is off to a one month toughening up course at Whitley Bay in Northumberland. As this was the middle of winter, it must have been bracing

    April 43, it is now off to a refresher course at Fairoaks Aerodrome, near Woking Surrey. The boys are obviously feeling the heat after Northumberland

    In a letter In May 43 Reg is posted to Ramsbury, an operational base near Swindon. The nearest (and only) recreation was a pub at Hungerford, about 8 miles away.

    Now the photos dry up completely under the pressure of flying duties. In a letter from Ramsbury, Reg talks about his introduction to twin engined aircraft, and night flying under blackout conditions. Full text see Ref 179. An Extract follows

    There is an interesting letter I think from Litchfield in July 43. Reg talks about his introduction to Lancasters, and buying eggs for a treat. Full text, see Ref 180. An extract follows

    On 5/11/43 Reg is posted to 460 Squadron, Breighton (Lancasters). Breighton is about 6 miles east of Selby, which is 12 miles south of York. Ths last photo is not labelled, but I am fairly sure it is Reg with his aircrew. The number is right for a Lancaster crew. For a list of the crew, and a description of his final mission, go to

    We did have contact some years ago with someone who knew Reg in passing in the airforce, and he remarked that Reg's locker area was adorned with sketches of Australia that Reg had done. The last few pages of the album contain sketches by Reg. The very last sketch is a few branches of a gum tree

    Reg was killed in action 2nd January 1944 on a mission over Berlin. Bomber command played an important role in weakening the German war machine in preparation for the D-day landings in the summer of that year

Les Rowley

Many thanks to Peter Star, who supplied most of the photographs above


The albums contain many photos showing people Reg served with. Sometimes they are christian names only, and I suspect occasionally the order given, and the order in the photograph are not the same. For what it is worth, here is a list

April 42 - Narrandera

P06-4 - Ray Milgate, Keith Stringer, Charlie Gregory, Ern Webb

Aug 42 - Dunnville (SFTS Senior Flight Training School) (62 course 6 SFTS)

P16-2 - Mrs McInnes, Bill, Dave, Bill
P17-1 - Bob Murden
P18-3 - Mr and Mrs McInnes, Bill, Dave
P21-4 - Bob, Phill, Ron
P21-5 - Phill, Jimmy, Bob
P22-3 - Alec, Keith, Bill, George, Athol
P22-4 - Keith, Bill, Lock
P24-4 - Lock, Basil, and Trev
P25-3 - Bob Wilkison, Bill Huddard, George Rendle, Keith Newman, Jim Vaughan
P25-4 - Alec
P26-1 - Jimmy Vaughan
P26-4 - Jimmy Vaughan
P26-5 - Bill McInnes
P31-3 - Bill and Dave McInnes, Bill Taylor
P32-4 - Max Murray
P33-2 - Max Murray
P33-5 - Alec Miller and Max Murray
P34-3 - Max Murray
P34-4 - Danny (the mad yank)
P36-1 - Fred Phillips, Alec Miller, Bob Wilkinson, Eric Readette
P36-2 - Fred Phillips, Basil Rachinger, Alec Miller, Bob Wilkinson, George Rendle, Eric Readette
P36-3 - Bob Wilkinson
P36-4 - George Rendle, Eric Readette
P37-1 - Fred Phillips, Basil Rachinger, Bob Wilkinson, Eric Readette
P37-6 - Al Watson
P38-2 - George Rendle, Keith Newman
P39-5 - George Rendle, Keith Newman
P40-2 - Fred Riley, Max Murray
P40-3 - Fred Riley, Max Murray, Bob Wilkinson
P41-1 - Bill Taylor
P42-1 - Fred Riley, George Rendle
P43-1 - George Rendle, Keith Newman

Jan 43 - Bournemouth

P44-3 - Fred
P49-2 - Fred, George

Feb 43 - Whitley

P46-2 - Fred, George
P48-1 - Fred
P48-3 - Fred, George
P49-1 - Fred, George

Apr 43 - Lichfield (AFU), Ramsbury

P52-3 - D Stitt, Sandy Baird, Fred Phillips, Thackeray, E Mattingley, Fergie(?) Clarke, Muscles Crowley, "Ace MacNamara", Tom Greenwood (Greenbottle)
P52-4 and 5 - N Page (?), Fred Ph (?), Dick Jones, Jack Bailey
P92-6 - Dick Jones, Nev Page, Jack Bailey
P92-8 - Nev Page, Jack Bailey
P93-7 - R Lawn, D Baxter, B Martin, R Ferguson, "Jock" Dunlop
P94-9 - D Baxter, R Ferguson, J Dunlop, T D'Arcy
P96-2 - William Fleming, Edward Truscott, Aubrey Robinson, Lambert Chester, Ronald Lawn, Henry Bennet (Reg's aircrew)

What happened to them?

I don't know how many of these names are 460 squadron or Australian. Presumably once you got to Dunnville, it was all nations in together.
I did find
D Baxter - 78 Squadron - flying Halifax - KIA - 13/5/43
but no idea if it is the same guy

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