Pic: Canadian National Archives
Wrt Off C B Gowrie
Lancaster serial number: ED936/G
Call sign: AJ-H
Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged and mine lost, flying low over sea on outward flight. Returned to base.
Chester Bruce Gowrie, always known as Bruce, was born on 14 April 1918 in the small Canadian village of Tramping Lake, which lies roughly halfway between Edmonton and Saskatoon, in the province of Saskatchewan. His parents were Malcolm and Phyllis Gowrie. He attended the local Tramping Lake School, which he left in 1936. He then worked as a post office clerk for four years, while also gaining experience of farming.
He had thought about applying to join the RCAF before the war, so when the war came it was an obvious path to take. He was accepted as a recruit in February 1941, and was selected for wireless operator training. His pre-war hobby of building radio sets made him a natural choice to be selected for wireless work.
After qualifying, Gowrie spent the Christmas of 1941 on leave and embarked for England in January 1942. He was posted to 19 Operational Training Unit at RAF Kinloss in July where he crewed up with Rice and two more from his Dams Raid crew, Richard Macfarlane and John Thrasher. They moved on to 1660 Conversion Unit at RAF Swinderby in October 1942 to complete heavy bomber training.
On 9 December 1942, the crew was posted to 57 Squadron at RAF Scampton to begin their operational career. The crew had flown on nine operations before being posted over to the new squadron being formed at the same base to undertake training for a special mission.
Gowrie flew with Rice and the rest of his crew on the handful of successful operations between the Dams Raid and December 1943, and he was promoted to a Warrant Officer First Class in December. However, their luck ran out on 20 December when they were shot down 14,000 feet above Merbes-Le Chateau in Belgium. Although Rice gave the order to bale out, there wasn’t time and the aircraft exploded. Rice seems to have been thrown clear by the explosion, and somehow landed in a wood but the bodies of the remaining six crew members were found in the wreckage.
Bruce Gowrie and his five colleagues were buried in Gosselies Communal Cemetery, near Hainaut, Belgium.
More about Gowrie online:
Entry on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Page about Rice crew burial site, Gosselies cemetery
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Nigel Press, All My Life, Lancfile Publishing 2006
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
John Sweetman, David Coward and Gary Johnstone, The Dambusters, Time Warner 2003
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.
Further information about Bruce Gowrie and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.