Dambuster of the Day No. 76: William Howarth

William Howarth

Pic: Howarth family

Sgt W Howarth
Front gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED921/G

Call sign: AJ-W

Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged by flak on outward flight. Returned to base with mine intact.

William (Bill) Howarth was born in Oldham, Lancashire on 29 August 1921. His father was also named William Howarth, and he was a warehouse foreman in the cotton industry. His mother was Lily Howarth (nee Martin), and she worked as a cotton operative. Howarth went to Higginshaw School, Oldham, and on leaving school worked as a grocer’s manager.
He joined the RAF in 1941, and was eventually selected for Air Gunner training, which he completed in August 1942. He crewed up with Les Munro, Jock Rumbles and Percy Pigeon at the end of September 1942, during heavy bomber training. Frank Appleby also joined the crew at the same time. These five would serve together uninterrupted for another 20 months.
Like his colleagues, he had completed some 20 operations with Munro by the time they volunteered for transfer to the new 617 Squadron. On the Dams Raid, he was positioned in the front gun turret and afterwards agreed with his captain that the damage to AJ-W was caused by land-based ‘light flak guns’. Howarth went on to complete more than 50 operations with Munro by the time the crew were taken off operational duties in July 1944. He was recommended for the DFM in April 1944. The citation read:

Flight Sergeant Howarth has completed 41 operational sorties as Air Gunner and many of these have been against the most heavily defended targets in Germany and Italy. He has operated continuously since January 1943, and his last 20 sorties have been carried out against objectives in occupied Europe whilst operating with a special duties squadron. During these operations, his exceptional coolness and marked ability as an Air Gunner has materially assisted his Captain in pressing home the attacks against opposition. Flight Sergeant Howarth’s marked enthusiasm for operations and his outstanding devotion to duty merit the highest praise. He is therefore strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal. (10 April 1944).

Howarth was commissioned in June 1944. He spent the remainder of the war in various training roles, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, and acting as Gunnery Leader in several different establishments. He left the RAF in June 1946 and returned to his former job in the grocery trade for a short time, before joining the Prudential Assurance Company in 1947 where he worked until retirement.
He married Doris Hall, a munitions worker, on 3 July 1943, and they had three sons, one of whom died in infancy. During both his working life and his retirement he was actively involved in fundraising for the Leonard Cheshire Homes.
Bill Howarth died on 12 January 1990, and was cremated at Hollinwood crematorium, Oldham.
[Thanks to David Howarth and Kevin Bending for help with this article.]

Survived war.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
James Holland, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the German Dams 1943, Bantam 2012

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.


6 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 76: William Howarth

  1. David William Howarth August 18, 2014 / 10:43 pm

    Thank you Charles, You’re doing a great job in providing accurate information about the genuine Dambusters

  2. Paul William Howarth August 19, 2014 / 10:12 am

    Last night i clicked on my favorites link to dambusterblog and received a pleasant surprise!
    A picture of my Grandad, fantastic.
    Please keep up the good work as your effort is really appreciated.

    Paul William Howarth

    • Nigel Favill August 14, 2015 / 10:02 am

      Hi Paul or William , A lady has been in touch called Lorraine Brown ,Here are her words ” I’ve been trying to get in contact with Bill Howath’s [William] family,as you must know he was in the Dambusters, He had known my parents for many years,dad was Rear Gunner 7 Squadron and they used to go to many reunions together .I think Bill was in 49 Squadron before 617.My dad passed April 2011,any contact info would be lovely.Bill and Doris used to visit our family home in Canterbury ‘Dad’s name Vernon Smith DFM ,OPR ,heres hoping
      Lorraine ” ..

  3. Nigel Favill August 14, 2015 / 10:08 am

    If you wish to get in touch I can send her any details or visa versa . Thank you .

  4. Jacqueline Gollop November 1, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    My name is Jacqueline and I am the grandaughter of Mrs Elizabeth Turner nee Howarth. Sgt William Howarth was my dad’s cousin.

    I would love to know more about him please.

    • Jacqueline Gollop November 4, 2017 / 2:03 pm


      Unfortunately I don’t know that much about him but I will ask my dad.

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