The Collection of Medals Formed By Dr A W Stott

Date of Auction: 25th March 1997

Sold for £360

Estimate: £400 - £500

Four: Sub-Lieutenant W. J. Lowe, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy, killed in action whilst attacking the German battleship Tirpitz
1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Defence and War Medals, these all named, together with his original Pilot’s Flying Log Book for the period May 1943-May 1944, two photographs, various letters, telegrams and greetings cards, official Admiralty letters forwarding log book and regarding pensions etc., and a quantity of training procedure documents, extremely fine (4)


William Joseph Lowe was born on 30 June, 1919. He joined the Royal Navy as a rating in 1942 becoming Acting Petty Officer Air Mechanic, before he was selected for promotion to Upper Yardman (Air) on 1 May 1943. He was trained as a pilot in the UK and in Canada and, on completion of his training, was appointed to H.M.S. Sparrowhawk, R.N. Air Station, Hatson, Orkneys, on 9 August 1944. Later that month Sub-Lieutenant Lowe, together with other members of his Flight, was embarked on H.M.S. Indefatigable for a strike against the German battleship Tirpitz, then laying in Altenfjord, Norway.

In the afternoon of 24 August 1944, Barracudas, Hellcats, Corsairs and Fireflies from
Indefatigable, Formidable and Furious took off in the heaviest attack made by the Fleet Air Arm against the Turpitz. The 33 Barracudas all carried 1,600 lb bombs, the 10 Hellcats each a 500 lb bomb, and five of the 24 Corsairs carried 1,000 armour-piercing bombs, the remainder with the 10 Fireflies being detailed for anti-flak duties. At 1547 the German defences gave an aircraft alarm and the smoke screen was started. The aircraft approached from all directions at heights from 6,500 feet to 10,000 feet, diving low into the attack. Despite the smoke screen two hits were scored on the Turpitz. A 500 lb bomb landed directly on top of ‘B’ turret, dishing its top and damaging the elevating gear of the starboard gun and destroying the quadruple 2cm AA mounting on it. The second hit was to prove to be the Fleet Air Arm’s greatest disappointment. A 1,600 lb AP bomb hit just forward of the bridge on the port side ant penetrated not only the upper deck but the armoured deck below, finally coming to rest in No 4 Switch Room on the lower platform deck, having gone through nearly 6 ins of decking, mostly armoured steel. However, this bomb failed to explode and when the Germans finally removed the explosive they found only 100 lbs instead of 215 lbs. Had this bomb exploded, it would have wrecked the main fire control room and the switchboard room as well as causing serious flooding which would have rendered the Turpitz useless, if not actually sunk. During the attack, five of the striking aircraft were shot down, one of them being flown by Sub-Lieutenant Lowe who was killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated by name on the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.