The Military Museums

Bill Fowler

William James Fowler was the son of English immigrants who grew up in the Crowsnest Pass area of British Columbia.

Bill Fowler

William James Fowler was the son of English immigrants who grew up in the Crowsnest Pass area of British Columbia.

Bill Fowler

William (Bill) Fowler was the son of English immigrants who grew up in the Crowsnest Pass area of British Columbia. He was a superb athlete, but his plans to run in the Olympics changed when the Second World War broke out in Europe. In October 1943, Bill was sent overseas and assigned to RAF Squadron #263 where he flew Hurricanes, Spitfires and Typhoon fighter aircraft.

He took part in D-Day preparations in 1944 by dive bombing army convoys in France. After the invasion, he attacked enemy tanks in the Falaise Gap area as well as ammunition dumps and military installations west of the Seine. In November 1944, Bill's Squadron demolished the German Gestapo Headquarters in both Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Bill flew an astonishing 101 missions before the war ended.

Bill Fowler was born in 1921, the son of immigrants from the Lake Country of England who settled in Michel, British Columbia. Growing up in the magnificent environment of the Crowsnest Pass, he was a superb athlete and was proposed entry to the Olympics as a runner. This event was cancelled when war was declared. Bill eventually served during the Second World War as an officer in both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force.

His training started on June 27, 1941 in Calgary, Alberta and continued at Regina, Fort William, Uplands and Sidney training centres until mid June of 1942. Then he was assigned to the #128 Fighter Squadron and, flying Tiger Moths, Harvards and Hurricanes, combined training and submarine patrols off the Atlantic coast for the next sixteen months.

In early October 1943, Bill was sent overseas to England where he was assigned to RAF Squadron #263 initially flying Hurricanes and Spitfire single engine aircraft. When Typhoons became available, Bill flew those aircraft as well.

Before his squadron was transferred to France in August 1944, Bill, based in England, was part of the preparations for the "D Day" invasion of France. His flight log refers to dog fights and reconnaissance missions over France as well as "dive bombing army convoys".

Clearly, the most difficult months were those spent based in France in 1944 and 1945. Bill's log book refers to August and September patrols and attacks on enemy tanks in the Falaise area, the scene of one of the most critical battles in Normandy. He also writes of attacks on ammunition dumps, barges, bridges and military installations west of the Seine – and records the deaths of many of his comrades and friends.

By October, allied forces had advanced into Belgium and Holland. Bill's squadron was active in attempting to immobilize the German troops and supported the allied ground forces as they moved to secure the port of Antwerp. By November 1944, Bill's squadron was also active over Germany. Bill took part in demolishing the German Gestapo Headquarters in both Rotterdam and Amsterdam while also flying bomber escorts over Germany and attacking enemy installations in both countries.

Bill's log lists dozens of fallen colleagues, including a group of 24 pilots lost on April 1945 alone. Despite being attacked many times, including by ME 262s, the first jet fighter aircraft, and by German tanks as he supported the allies when they "stormed across the Rhine", Bill somehow defied the odds and made it back to Canada. He completed an astonishing 101 trips before coming home.

Bill was sent to rest camps after each 30 trips, but chose to continue service until the war was over. He then assisted in clearing the notorious camps where many inmates were so near death they could not be saved. The horror of these experiences affected Bill's health for the rest of his life.


After the war Bill met and married Peggy Rose Brennan, an Irish Calgarian, and took up residence on the UBC campus, in a small but cozy trailer with other Veteran families. He studied engineering before being employed in the Alberta Oil industry. Eventually, Bill formed his own very successful company – Fowler Distributors, supplying cabinets for a booming housing industry.

Bill and Peggy had five children: Patricia, Bill, Hugh, Frank and Bob. Having succeeded in business, he was able to enjoy his sailboat, his ranch where he raised horses with his family, and develop his own subdivision, Aspen Creek Estates near Bragg Creek, Alberta.

Bill was a devoted son, brother, husband, father and friend. He retired in 1983 and passed away in 1986. This poem was published in the Toronto Star referring to Bill's Squadron 263 with a picture of Bill with the mascot goat, Mabel.

To The Foxes – Squadron 263

Here's to the gallant Flying Foxes
Come to the land of bogs and rockses
Far from the comforts of civilization
The abundance of rum is their sole consolation.

Departed alas from the shores of Cape Breton,
And leaving a host of Glace Bat gals a-setting,
With time on their hands and their hearts full of woe,
‘Cause Ulmer and Fowler have Both had to go.

While Richard the Rowley and Mabel the goat,
Their loss brings a lump to this editor's throat.
Sit sadly together and long for the day,
When the squadron heads homeward, down
Cottage Road Way.

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