Lancaster JB314 - EA-Q

Here is a picture of a young man. At the time he was about 17 years old. He never saw 22.

This is my uncle (1st cousin once removed), Sgt. David Rowcliffe RAFVR, pictured shortly before the outbreak of WWII. He was, when this picture was taken, just plain David Rowcliffe.

I want to use the story of David's brief life to illustrate some points about our country, and how it conducts itself today.

Most of the information this post is based on was provided by two sources. One is .

The other was from the kindness of a German researcher named Eberhard Michel, to whom I will always be indebted.

Why am I posting this here tonight?

There are several reasons.

The first is that on this day, 67 years ago, David lost his life in a bombing raid over Germany. That was ten years to the day before I was born.

David  trained as a Navigator. After training in South Africa, he and his crew were assigned to 49 squadron operating out of Fiskerton in Lincolnshire. Their aircaft was Lancaster JB314 call-sign EA-Q They were a mix of Brits and Canadians.

The night of 30th March 1944 49 Squadron was allocated for a large raid on Nuremberg. This was David's first (and last) mission.

The night was clear with a full moon. but the target was obscured by cloud. Pathfinders recommended that the raid be aborted. This advice was directly over-ruled by "Bomber" Harris. Even by Harris' dismal standards this was an insanely poor decision. Harris was supremely careless with the lives of the men under his command, although he claimed otherwise. As for the lives of German civilians he was openly dismissive.

David's aircraft  was one of the 12% of the aircraft that did not return. JB314 was shot down by Fw Reitmayer from I/NJG5 based at Stendal. The plane fell in pieces near a small village called Quotshausen. Only two of the crew bailed out of the burning bomber. The mid upper gunner Sgt. A.J. McAvoy and my Uncle, Sgt. D. Rowcliffe. Both were heavily burned.

Sgt A.J. McAvoy was found wandering in a state of shock. His wounds were so severe he was repatriated before the war ended. David crashed into a tree and was left suspended until rescued by the villagers. However, his burns were even worse than those suffered by Sgt A.J. McAvoy. Little medical help was available.

But both men were treated by a local German girl only known now as  "Sister Annie". She probably saved Sgt McAvoys life (God bless her heart).

Regrettably though David died of his wounds. The rest of the crew, P/O L.G. Kellow, Sgt S.G. Silver, Sgt L.E.Walford, Sgt T.C.Baker, P/O J. Latham perished in the aircraft.

Just another tragedy in a world drowning in tears and grief. 67 years ago.

So what? What is my message? What am I trying to say here?

I know (and you know) much more about this tragedy than Davids parents and friends ever knew. They didn't actually even know which raid he was killed on.  After he was killed the bureaucrats could not be bothered, his parents never even knew where he was buried.

In the past our country has been extremely careless with the lives of our young men and women. I fear today we are still ever being pulled into gung-ho self righteous campaigns on behalf of the world, while the world looks on. Sometimes they cheer, sometimes they curse. But always from the sidelines.

Our country haemorrhages its wealth into the pockets of foreign gangster elites in what is farcically called Foreign Aid. Meanwhile our young hemorrhage their blood into the sands of Iraq, Afghanistan and 21 other wars since WWII. Always fighting somebody else's war. Paying for somebody else's excess.

At least David died fighting a war defending his own country, even through he was led by a megalomaniac Air Marshal.

Perhaps what I need to say on this black anniversary is that we need to be more careful with those we put in harms way.

Today it is Libya. Another righteous war, but one waged for somebody else.

We owe the likes of David a huge debt. Today we need to make sure there are no more tragedies like JB314.

The only way we can do that is to stop the Ship Of Fools in Westminster from grandstanding on the world stage and using our soldiers as some blood sacrifice to their beloved "World Role".

There are times when regrettably war is an ugly fact of life. David, and his crew paid the ultimate price in such a time.

Today we must get our politicians to understand that war should always be the last resort of the incompetent, not the first resort in international diplomacy.

Lancaster JB314 (EA-Q)
P/O L.G. Kellow Pilot (Killed)
Sgt S.G. Silver F/E (Killed)
Sgt D. Rowcliffe NAV (Killed)
Sgt L.E. Walford W/OP (Killed)
Sgt A.J. McAvoy A/G (P.o.W.)
Sgt T.C. Baker B/A (Killed)
P/O J. Latham RCAF A/G (Killed)



W. McAvoy said...

My father the late A. J. McAvoy passed away 25 November 2010.

He had extensive burns to his face also burns to his hands and feet.

W. E. McAvoy

BilloTheWisp said...

Dear Mr McAvoy,

It fits that your father was the mid upper gunner on JB 314.

The only reference to him and David (other than the crew records and family conversation) I have found was in "The Nuremberg Raid" by Martin Middlebrook. This book briefly mentions both David (not by name) and your father (by name).

From Middlebrook's book and personal correspondence (I have from a German researcher), Sgt McAvoy was badly burned on his face (probably elsewhere as well - as you describe)

I would be interested to know more.

Believe it or not, even though they only met him once, your father was held in high regard by my family. Especially as he sought out David at the end of the war only to find that he had died from his wounds.

If you would like to exchange what information we have please comment on this post with your email address.... I WILL NOT publish your email address but will reply to you.

My condolences on your loss.

Without doubt, Sgt McAvoy, along with his friends, was a very brave man. He is somebody whose memory deserves our deep respect and to whom we should all be eternally proud of.


Unknown said...

I read with a mixture of interest and realisation of the stark reality of how brave the aircrew were and how dangerous it was for them.This reality becomes more and more apparent the more I research my late Fathers RAF service history.
The reason I picked up your blog is that I, am as part of my research,looking in to the service history of JB 314.
The reason for this is that my father was the navigator in this aircraft on the 24/25 Feb 1944.
His pilot officer was Clark they were very fortunate to fly a successful mission on that night.
My Fathers name was Don Rolfe and may well have known Sgt McAvoy.
Kind regards and with the deepest respect Colin Rolfe

BilloTheWisp said...

Hi Colin,
Interesting. I had not thought about it before but of course, the aircraft were not necessarily crewed by the same crew each time they flew. I understand your father was a navigator which was the same role David Rowcliffe fulfilled in his crew, so it is highly likely they knew each other even though David was lost so quickly. Once I had some information on JB314 regarding entry into service and No hours flown... I'll see if I can find it although it must be now 10 years since I received it in an email. If I find it I'll try sending it to you on Google+ and leave a marker here...

BilloTheWisp said...

Hi Colin,
Sadly the email must have come into an old & lost email address. I thought I had transferred everything but it is not where I thought it would be. The information came from a guy called Rob Davis who is an expert on bomber command. He may still be around though it appears his site is not. Sorry I cannot help more. I'll keep an eye out for it just in case I have put it somewhere "safe" but it looks like it has gone.

Researcher said...

Your father visited my grandparents to explain to them what happened the night JB314 was shot down and how their son Leonard Ernest Walford, my uncle, died. His visit had a profound effect on them but they were very grateful for his kindness and it gave them answers to their questions and it brought them some peace. They were very upset by his injuries and by how much he had suffered. My sister and I were very sorry to learn of your loss but pleased to learn that your father went on to have a family. They were very brave young men who will not be forgotten.

I found a description of how they were shot down in the book "Nuremberg: The Blackest Night in RAF History 30/31 March 1944" by Martin W. Bowman page 124. My sister and I were the first ones in our family to visit the graves of the crew in the Hanover War Cemetry in 1991.

If you have any information and are willing to share it, my sister and I would be very grateful.

Kind regards,

BilloTheWisp said...

Dear Lorraine,
I am terribly sorry about the delay in publishing your comment and replying to it, I had just about abandoned this blog and only recently restarted it. About a year after your comment.
It looks like Sgt McAvoy must have done his best to visit the families of all those killed on that dreadful night including yours (Walford) and mine (Rowcliffe).
He must have been a tremendous fellow.
Thank you for the book reference. I was unaware of this book and have just ordered it.
I have little information beyond what is here but I I will see if there is anything and try and contact you directly on your google ID
if I find anything worthwhile.
Kind Regards