Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Air Vice-Marshal D Bower (134060)

Douglas                        b: 6 Jan 1920                      r: 6 Jan 1975                d: 3 Oct 2003

CBE – 1 Jan 1971 (OBE – 5 Jun 1952), AFC – 1 Jan 1955.

(RAFVR): Plt Off: 6 Nov 1942, Fg Off (WS): 6 May 1943, Flt Lt (WS): 6 Nov 1944,  

(RAF): Flt Lt: 10 Sep 1946 [23 May 1946]; seniority adjusted to 1 Sep 1945 on 27 Fen 1947, Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1950, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1956, Act Gp Capt: 7 Jun 1961, Gp Capt: 1 Jul 1961, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1966, AVM: 27 Jan 1973, AVM: 1 Jan 1973?.

xx xxx 1941:            U/T Navigator.       

xx xxx 1943:            Navigator, No 77 Sqn.

Douglas Bower (2nd from left), No 77 Sqn - Elvington, 1943

Douglas Bower (2nd from left), No 77 Sqn - Elvington, 1943

Photo - No 77 Sqn Archives (courtesy P Markham)

23 Oct 1943:           Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 1)

Douglas Bower (far left), No 77 Sqn - Stalag Luft 1

Douglas Bower (far left), No 77 Sqn - Stalag Luft 1

Photo - No 77 Sqn Archives (courtesy P Markham)

xx xxx 1946:            Staff, Experimental Section, Royal Aircraft Establishment

10 Sep 1946:           Appointed to a Extended Service Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (wef 23 May 1946)

22 Mar 1949:          Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant. (wef 2 Oct 1948)

xx xxx 1948:            Attended Specialist Navigation Course

xx xxx 1948:            Staff, Empire Air Navigation School.

xx xxx xxxx:             Attended RAF Staff College

14 Feb 1949:           Staff Officer, Directorate of Navigation and Control.

xx xxx 1953             Staff Navigator, RAF Flying College.

xx xxx 1958:            Officer Commanding, Base Support Wing, Operation Grapple

 1 May 1958:           Officer Commanding, No 617 Sqn.

23 May 1960:         Wing Commander - Operations, HQ No 1 Group.

 7 Jun 1961:            Officer Commanding, RAF Lindholme.

28 Sep 1964:           Deputy Director of Manning.

xx xxx 1966:            Attended Imperial Defence College.

xx xxx 1967:            Project Director – Phantom.

16 Nov 1971:          SASO, No 1 Group.

27 Jan 1973:            Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operational Requirements).

Douglas Bower, became the first navigator to reach air rank and was born in Huddersfield, but educated in Plymouth, before returning to Huddersfield Technical College, from where he graduated as an electrical and mechanical engineer.  He volunteered for RAF service in 1941 and following training, he was posted to No 77 Squadron in 1943, which by then was operating Halifaxes in No 4 Group. On the night of 22/23 October 1943, he was navigator in Halifax II, (JB856, KN-G), carrying out a raid against Kassel, when the aircraft was shot down, four of the crew survived and were captured, but the other three were killed.  He was eventually sent to Stalag Luft 1 at Barth on the Baltic.  In 1945, he and the remainder of the prisoners at Stalag Luft 1, refused to join the ‘Long March’  westward, probably preventing a great loss of life amongst the prisoners of this camp.  

Returning from captivity, he was posted to the RAE at Farnborough, where he spent two years on experimental flying duties and was then sent on the Specialist Navigation Course.  On completion of this course he was appointed to the staff of the Empire Air Navigation School after which he attended the RAF Staff College.  This was followed by a staff tour in the Directorate of Navigation, before joining the staff of the RAF Flying College.  It was here that he undertook a number of record breaking flights.  He was the navigator in the first RAF jet aircraft 'Aries IV' to fly over the North Pole piloted by Wing Commander Andrew Humphrey on 15 October 1954.  He had also been one of the two navigators aboard the same aircraft when it set a new London-Cape Town record of 13 hours 16 minutes on 19 December 1953.  In 1955, he was once again the navigator of two pioneering flights in 'Aries IV', on one of these, his pilot was Ivor Broom.  

In 1958, he was posted to Christmas Island in command of the Base Support Wing for the 'H' bomb tests, code-named 'Operation Grapple'.  On his return from the pacific he was tasked with reforming No 617 Squadron on the Vulcan B Mk 1.  He was next appointed to command RAF Lindholme, then the Bomber Command Bombing School.  A further posting at the Ministry of Defence was followed by attendance at the Imperial Defence College and then from 1967, he was responsible for the overseeing of the introduction of the McDonnell Phantom into both RAF and Royal Navy Service.  He was then appointed SASO at HQ No 1 Group before his final appointment as ACAS (OR), when he was responsible for the development of the Tornado.  

He had been a founder member of the Royal Institute of Navigation and was made a Fellow.  He was also interested in shooting and was at one time vice-president of the RAF Small Arms Association as well as president of the Yorkshire Rifle Association.  He represented the RAF and Yorkshire at shooting on numerous occasions and England once.

  This page was last updated on 05/01/24©

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