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Towe, Gerald

Sergeant Towe

Lockeed Hudson

The U.S. built Mark I Lockheed Hudson, NR-L (N7310), which was flown by Pilot Richard Harris and Co-pilot Gerald Towe who were accompanied by crew members Howard Street and Wilfred Wood. All four men were killed on the morning of the 19th March 1941, when their aircraft crashed into a hillside in the Orkney Isles. Picture courtesy of Malcolm Barrass.

 

Sergeant Gerald Edward Towe, R.A.F.V.R.220 Squadron Badge

Gerald Edward Towe was born on 5th August 1918, and was baptised on the 3rd May 1925 at Thurmaston parish church. His parents were Isaac Daniel Towe and his wife Bertha Alice Towe. At the age of 20, in 1938, Gerald joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, whilst he was working for the Market Department of Leicester Corporation.

On the morning of the 19th March 1941, at 05:55 hours, a Mark I Lockheed Hudson of 220 Squadron RAF Coastal Command became airborne as it left its base at RAF Wick, Scotland. Aboard the aeroplane was its Pilot Richard Harris, along with Co-Pilot Gerald Towe, and two other crew members Howard Street and Wilfred Wood.

The crew had been tasked to provide escort cover for the St. Bertrand. Unfortunately, at 06:20 hours the aircraft flew into a cloud covered hillside at Withi Gill, approximately four and a half miles north west of Tor Ness lighthouse, Hoy, Orkney Isles. All four crew members were killed.

Due to poor weather conditions the wreck of the aeroplane was not discovered on the hillside until the day after the crash. The bodies of all four men were recovered and each was interred in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney.

Gerald Edward Towe was a member of the congregation at Thurmaston Parish Church. After his death, in May 1941 the parish magazine carried the following contribution in his memory. The words of the poem give us a sense of where he lays:

On a wind-swept isle they laid him,
By the side of a tree in bud.
The only sounds are the cry of a gull
And the song of a thrush to the spring.

In the village church they remembered him,
The lad so blith and free;
They had loved him well, they love him still
As he sleeps on a sun-drenched hill.

On a lonely isle, he's sleeping
Mid the sun, the wind and the rain.
The tree stands guard, the gull dips low
While the thrush sings his song to the spring.

Acknowledgements:

Ross McNeill, author of RAF Coastal Command Losses, Volume 1. See RAF Commands

Malcolm Barrass. See Air of Authority

Steve Clements, for producing the 220 Squadron Badge.

The badge is © Crown Copyright and is reproduced with the permission
of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office

The Grave of Gerald Towe
Photo courtesy of Alan Clark

 


The Crew of Lockheed Hudson NR-L (N7310), 220 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command, killed in action on the 19th March 1941:


Sergeant, 741443, (Pilot) Richard Douglas Harris, R.A.F.V.R., aged 24 years, son of Robert William and Grace Elizabeth Harris of Hardwicke, Cambridgeshire. He is buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney - Plot P. Row 3. Grave 28.

Sergeant, 742440, (Co-Pilot), Gerald Edward Towe, R.A.F.V.R., aged 22 years, son of Isaac Daniel and Bertha Alice Towe, of 1, Forest Avenue, Thurmaston. He was a former pupil of Wyggeston School, Leicester, and he had an interest in cycle racing. He is buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney – Plot P. Row 3. Grave 27.

Sergeant, 751856, Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner, Wilfred Wood, R.A.F.V.R., aged 23 years, son of John Alfred and Lucy Wood of Hull, and husband of Doreen Jane Wood of Hull. He is buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney - Plot P. Row 3. Grave 25.

Howard Collard Street was born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, in 1917. He was the son of William John Street and his wife Emily May, nee Jones. Sergeant, 751912, Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner, Howard Collard Street, R.A.F.V.R., is buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Orkney - Plot P. Row 3. Grave 26.

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