Leading Aircraftman Denholm Gow

Leading Aircraftman Denholm Gow RAF (532923) was the son of John Boyd and Margaret Reoch Gow, Winterpark, Muirton of Ardblair, Blairgowrie. He was born at 33 William Street, Blairgowrie, had two brothers and two sisters and was married to Joan (neé Carter).

Gow  was reported missing after an engagement with the enemy on 21 June 1940. He was a crew member of a Bristol Beaufort L4501, twin-engine torpedo bomber tasked with attacking the Pocket Battleship Scharnhorst which was anchored in Trondheim Harbour in Norway.

Bristol Beaufort  L4501, RAF Coastal Command, 42 Squadron took off at 14.25 hours from RAF Wick, along with eight other Bristol Beauforts to bomb the Scharnhorst. The Beauforts were all armed with armour piercing bombs 

On the way, Bristol Beaufort L9810 was attacked by two Messerschmitt Bf 109s from 11./JG77, but managed to catch up with the formation. Suddenly it’s landing gear dropped, and an engine burst into flames and L9810 crashed into the sea. 

The rest of the squadron successfully hit the Scharnhorst at Trondheim with three bombs. It was forced it to return to Kiel for six months of repairs.

The squadron was then attacked again on the return journey by Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77) Herz As (‘Ace of Hearts’) based at an airfield at Værnes, about 20 miles west of Trondheim. A pilot of II/JG 77 later submitted a claim that he had shot down L4501 into the sea off the coast of Bergen approximately 400 miles further south. 

The Bristol Beaufort L4501 crew killed in action: 

Pilot Officer Alan George Rigg, RAF (41067), pilot, age 19 

Pilot Officer Marcel Adrian Phillips, RAF (44259), observer, age 27 

Aircraftman 1st Class George Edward Tanner, RAF (625471), wireless operator/air gunner, age 19 

Aircraftman Denholm Gow, RAF (532923), wireless operator/air gunner, age 19 

The other Beauforts lost from RAF 42 Squadron that day: 

Bristol Beaufort L9810, flown by Flying Officer William Barrie-Smith – lost with all crew. 

Bristol Beaufort L4486, flown by Flying Officer Herbert John Seagrim – lost with all crew. 

Beaufort L4486 was attacked by two Messerschmitt Bf 109s of II./JG 77: an engine burst into flames and the aircraft crashed into the sea off Bergen, Norway. Only the body of one of the crew was ever found, with the other three posted as ‘missing, presumed killed in action’. 

Gow was married in England just a fortnight before. He was previously employed on various farms in the Blairgowrie area. His father served in World War One and his brother was in The Black Watch. Gow is remembered on panel 23 of the Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green, near Egham, Surrey. 

Oberfeldwebel Hans-Jakob Arnoldy from the Luftwaffe 77 Jagdgeschwader was one of the pilots defending the Scharnhorst on that day, the same pilot who later shot down Acting Sergeant David Ferguson Sharpe Campbell from Perth on 25 June 1940. He is not listed as having shot down any RAF aircraft on 21 June 1940. The day before he shot down a Lockeed Hudson and the day after, two Blackburn Skua’s (8 out 15 were shot down). Anoldy was part of Luftwaffe 4./JG77 Squadron in Norway at the time. He was later injured in a crash landing following aerial combat near Bergen on 26 October 1940. He ended up with seven victories before his death in Greece on 15 April 1941. 

Norway had surrendered to the Germans on 10 June 1940. Off Norway, the British Aircraft carrier, HMS Glorious was sunk by the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau on 8 June 1940. The Scharnhorst suffered some damage during the battle and sought refuge at Trondheim. RAF and Fleet Air Arm aircraft made attacks on the Scharnhorst from 11 June 1940, the Royal Navy also joined in with aircraft from HMS Ark Royal. The Scharnhorst retreated to the Deutsche Werke dockyard at Keil for shipyard repairs on 21 June 1940. The Gneisenau was also damaged in a engagement with the British Battleship Renown. Two British escorting destroyers were sunk, HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta. On the same day, more than 10,000 soldiers from the 51st (Highland) Division were captured at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux and sent to POW camps. 

R.A.F. SQUADRON BADGES (CH 15649) Original wartime caption: The badge of No.42 Squadron, R.A.F. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205454768

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Schlachtschiff “Scharnhorst”

Schlachtschiff “Gneisenau”

Cruiser Scharnhorst, A503 FM30-50 booklet for identification of ships, published by the Division of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department of the United States. The copyright is in the public domain because it has expired.