Top: James McDowell, dressed in flying suit. Bottom: course members. McDowell is on the far left of the row sitting on chairs. Raymond Robinson is 2nd from left in the row behind him, wearing a lopsided hat.
Photographs: Mark Robinson. [Son of Raymond E. Robinson, 460 Squadron, RAAF]
Mark Robinson has kindly sent me some unpublished pictures of Sgt James McDowell, the rear gunner in Vernon Byers’s Lancaster, AJ-K, on the Dams Raid. His father Raymond, an Australian, served as an air gunner in 460 Squadron, but previously was on the same air gunnery course as McDowell in April 1942. This was Air Gunners Course No. 30 held at the No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School in Dafoe, Saskatchewan, Canada.
James McDowell was born in Glasgow on 13 August 1910, the son of John and Agnes McDowell. His father was killed in the First World War, so in 1924 his mother, grandmother and the five McDowell children emigrated to Canada, and took up residence in Port Arthur, Ontario.
McDowell worked first for the Coca Cola company in Port Arthur. He married Dorothea Edna Craig in 1932, and they had two daughters, Darleen and Marilyn. They then moved north of Port Arthur where he found work as a gold miner, ending up at the MacLeod Cockshutt mine in Geraldton between 1935 and 1941.
Jimmy McDowell joined the RCAF in 1941. After training as an air gunner in Saskatchewan, he was sent to England. He crewed up with fellow Canadian Vernon Byers, before they were posted to 467 Squadron in February 1943. The crew had only undertaken three operations before transferring to 617 Squadron on 24 March.
On the Dams Raid, they had just flown over Texel island on the way to the Sorpe Dam when a shot from behind brought down their aircraft, and it crashed into the Waddenzee, 18 miles west of Harlingen. The wreckage has never been located but James McDowell’s body was eventually released by the elements from its rear turret and was found floating in the Vliestrom channel south of Terschelling near buoy No. 2 on 22 June 1943. He was buried the next day in Harlingen General Cemetery, and remains there today. His comrades are all commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.