In Memory of the years we shared
 

 
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'Toddlers’  1920s
 ‘Teenagers’ 1930s  
Our last meeting: April 1943

The Compiler recalls with immense joy and sadness our last meeting in early April 1943 when we spent the day together in Morecambe.  Pilot-Officer John travelled from Lincolnshire to be with me to celebrate receiving my commission as a Second-Lieutenant in The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment).

When John completed his last mission with 103 Squadron on 25 February 1944 and was subsequently posted to 104 Squadron to undertake aerial reconnaisance duties, it was a strange coincidence that I was being trained in the interpretation of aerial photographs.  I attended a course for Infantry Battalion Intelligence Officers in April 1944 at Cambridge. Equally strange, I was to fly on  reconnaissance in a Lysander aircraft during the period of the Ardennes offensive, over the German positions in front of the 52nd Mountain Division.

On the day after the German Ardennes offensive started on the 16th December 1944 the 7th/9th Royal Scots took up a defensive position at Gillrath, three miles north-west of Geilenkirchen and within the frontier of the Reich.   Later, on the 30th December, we were quickly re-deployed to strengthen the Division’s defences when a major German assault was launched at Geilenkirchen. 

It was there at Bruggerhof when the Battalion was on the right flank of the British 21st Army Group and linking up with the American forces, we encountered the  rapid and demoralising firepower of a German Nebelwerfer, a multi-firing  rocket artillery weapon known as ‘Screaming Minnie’.  Aided by aerial photographic data I quickly pin-pointed its exact location and the Nebelwerfer was designated an ‘Uncle’ target bringing into action all our available Divisional artillery to fire on this formidable enemy weapon.   The next morning I was allowed to go in the Lysander aircraft which carried out a first-light reconnaissance over the Divisional front and witnessed the effectiveness of our artillery fire on this target.  I also did a ‘recce’ of the area in front of our Battalion position to determine the extent of the enemy’s defensive wire.  Later, the Lysander swooped down over a wooded area and encountered small-arms fire as we investigated tank tracks and discovered German tanks harbouring in the wood. 

Forty-eight hours after John was killed in action and only some twelve miles from where John’s Wellington NC607 had been brought down, I was wounded after the Battalion had captured the German town of Heinsberg and was preparing to consolidate against a possible counter-attack.   I did not know of John’s death until I returned to Peebles on recuperation leave.   His grievous loss for ever mourned  . . . our happy boyhood and teenage days in Peebles ever remembered.

   
 
1925: Our first 'wheels' with Jimmy Scott (scooter), John (car), Joe (tricycle), regularly swapped!

 

 

 

Five Northgate Pals in the early 1930s: left Climbing the Hills overlooking the Valley of the River Tweed. In front Arthur Foster, John Lowrie; back George Laing, JB, Jimmy Scot.

right Walking round Soonhope Burn. In front John Lowrie, Arthur Foster; back JB, George Laing, Jimmy Scot.

1938: Seated on the wall at Neidpath Castle waiting for the ceremony of the installation of the Warden of Neidpath during the Peeble Beltane Festival. Left JB, George Laing and John, looking forward to a happy evening in the town. Unaware, unexpecting the consequences of the Second World War just less than fifteen months away: George taken P.o.W. almost two years to the day (June 1940) at Dunkirk, John killed in action 23 January 1945 and JB wounded in Germany on 25 January 1945 two day's after John's death.


 

1940: JB home on leave, John now serving in the Peebles Air Training Corps whilst waiting to join the RAFVR.

John had made friends with two Polish lads now far from home serving with the Polish Armoured Division encamped in Victoria Park, Peebles.

Sporting my Lance-Corporal chevron and my crossed signal flags, I am also wearing the belt and side arms of one of my Polish friends.

 

Joe Brown: Formerly lived at 56 Northgate (next door to John) from 1921-34, now the site of the public gardens recently beautifully re-designed by 'Bonnie Peebles' volunteers.

My Second World War Memoirs <www.lawlerbrown.com>

History of Peebles: 1850-1990 <www.historyofpeebles.com>

 

Contact: email to joelawlerbrown@gmail.com

 

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Peenemunde 17 August 1943 | Peenemunde 2