Sqn Ldr Kenyon Bowen-Bravery D.F.C., Croix de Guerre
Born: December 19th 1922, Cardiff, Wales. Died: September 1st 2013 Age 90
On the night of June 5 1944 Bowen-Bravery and his crew, veterans of more than 20 bombing operations, set off in the Lancaster Bad Penny II. They were part of an armada of 1,012 bombers flying in support of Operation Overlord, and had been ordered to attack the heavy gun battery at Crisbecq on the Normandy coast.
The widely circulated artist’s impression of Kenyon Bowen-Bravery’s Lancaster, Bad Penny II
At 11.34pm they released 14 1,000lb. bombs, the first to fall in support of the airborne and amphibious assault, which was about to commence. Their action was captured in an artist’s impression which was published in many national newspapers and magazines.
Some years later Bowen-Bravery and his crew received the Croix de Guerre from the French government. A plaque commemorating their historic role also hangs in the church of St Denys in the village of North Killingholme, Lincolnshire, near their wartime base.
Kenyon Bowen-Bravery was educated at Barry County Grammar School. He joined the RAF in September 1941 and trained as a pilot at the RAF College Cranwell. After converting to heavy bombers he joined No 550 Squadron based at North Killingholme (now Humberside Airport), arriving in December 1943, just as the Battle of Berlin opened. It was a period during which Bomber Command suffered some of its heaviest casualties, but Bowen-Bravery survived a number of visits to the ‘Big City’, many in his Lancaster J for Jig, which he rechristened Bad Penny II as bad pennies always come back.
In the spring of 1944 Bomber Command turned its attention to bombing transportation targets and supply dumps in France in preparation for the forthcoming Allied landings in Normandy. On the night of May 3/4, Bowen-Bravery took off to attack the large military arms dump and camp at Mailly-le-Camp. Although the target was well marked by Mosquito Pathfinders, radio problems left the 364 Lancasters on the raid without instructions from the Master Bomber. As the bombers circled, German night fighters arrived and took a heavy toll on the force. The target was eventually bombed with great accuracy, but 42 Lancasters failed to return.
After D-Day, Bowen-Bravery attacked other targets in France and, on June 23, bombed the marshalling yards at Saintes. It was his 30th and final operation, and he was awarded a DFC.
Bowen-Bravery then flew with Transport Command before joining No 31 Squadron in India, flying Dakotas. He trained Indian Air Force pilots and carried refugees during the period of Partition. On one journey, smoke filled the cabin of his aircraft and he prepared to make a landing, only to discover that an Indian family had lit a fire to brew up some tea – they courteously offered him a cup.
He remained at Mauripur near Karachi, in the new Pakistan, where he met his future wife, who was serving with Princess Mary’s RAF Nursing Service, until the final RAF withdrawal in late 1947.
During the war Bowen-Bravery accepted that there were many factors over which he had no control, and he was determined to identify what he could do to minimise risk. He insisted on good planning and carried out regular emergency procedures in the aircraft, often with the crew blindfolded so they could operate if all internal lighting was lost or the aircraft filled with smoke. This paid off one night when their Lancaster was hit by anti-aircraft fire and, despite injured crew and a badly damaged aircraft, they returned safely. All Bowen-Bravery’s crew survived the war.
After leaving the RAF in early 1948 he worked in the marketing division of Proctor and Gamble before entering television in 1956. For seven years he developed the commercial aspects of ABC Television before becoming a director at Thomson Television International. He travelled the world helping to establish television networks in Canada, India and Kenya among many other countries. A keen photographer, he had a great love of nature and music.
Kenyon Bowen-Bravery’s wife, Mary, whom he married in 1949, survives him with their two daughters.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.