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Old 23rd March 2013, 11:43
JOHN CB
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Ashford Air Raid, A Gunners Story.

I have only just found this forum whilst searching for information about a raid on Asford during WW11. You will see from my note and hopefully attachments that before last week I was not aware of the big raid of 24th. March 1943. I know that some of the facts may be in disputed but can only say that may father told the story to myself and brother as he remembered it.
He would have first told myself when I was about nine years old, only eleven years after the event. He wrote his notes when he was 81. He had no access whilst alive to any of the information that can now be found in books or on the internet. He did not ever mention the name of the German pilot and from his verbal and written reports could not have known of the full horrific story.

It is an uncanny coincidence that he notes were found by my sister only a week or so before the 70 anniversary of the raid. I myself have not yet been able to read a copy of the book by Chris Goss and am in the early stages of my search for information so would be keen to hear from members of the forum who can furnish me with information.

His Story.

My Father was Christopher Bainbridge Bowman, he served in the British Army as a gunner from 1940 until the end of the war in 1945.
He manned the anti- aircraft guns in several "hot Spots" including Cardiff during the Blitz, Pembroke Dock, Tavistok and later Ashford before leaving for France and Germany.

Dad was a modest person, truthful and never one to brag, he served through the war including France and Germany but told my brother and myself little of his experiences and nothing to our sister Christine, however the one incident he did tell my brother Trevor and myself about was the day he shot down a German fighter at Ashford.
I will now record what he actually told us, this is what he was sure happened and over the years the story remained the same.
*He was manning his Twin Vickers 3.3 machine guns at the railway yard in Ashford, Kent when they were attacked by 12 German Fighter aircraft.
*The guns were either from a Sunderland flying boat or else the same type of machine gun.
*The guns were mounted on top of a structure built from railway sleepers.
*There should have been two soldiers manning the guns but his mate had gone to the shelter. (For a cup of tea or to relieve himself) *The yard was taken by surprize and attacked by 12 German fighters, in a row across and coming straight towards him.
*They were very low and fast.
*There were 8 ME 109 in the centre and four FW190, two at each end of the line.
*He said that the FW190 were new aircraft. ( I thought he meant that they were a new type of aircraft but now believe they were brand new clean aircraft) *The aircraft were dropping bombs and firing their machine guns as they attacked.
*He aimed his guns above one of the middle aircraft and it flew into his bullets.
*One aircraft flew directly towards and over him and he fired his Vickers machine gun into it, he could see his bullets hitting it.
*The aircraft he hit blew up the other side of Ashford.
*The aircraft crashed into a school playing field.
*The pilots body was recovered, Father said he was very young, he thought he was 19 years old but surprisingly wearing an iron cross, but it was a gold iron cross.
*During the raid an engine boiler blew up and engine parts were flying into the air *Father told my brother that he thought it was pay day because there looked like money flying about?
*One of the railway workers had all of his clothes blown off but survived.
*In addition to attacking the railway yard the other aircraft were shooting at civilians and school children.
*There were 12 civilians killed that day. (He was unaware of the full horror) *He was not credited with the shooting down of the aircraft because he was alone on his guns and any claim had to be verified by a second person/gunner.
*His army pals had a stags head cast from the aluminium from the crashed aircraft, this was sent home to his mother in Darlington but lost. (I wonder what happened to it?)

The above are the things that Dad told us verbally when he very occasional talked about it, he did not ever tell us when the raid took place or mention knowing the identity of the pilot.
I thought it was a FW190 that he shot down but my brother believes it was a ME109.

Please refer to the atchments.

I was always interested in finding out when and where all this took place but before the days of the internet and whilst I was working I was not able to do so but last week I received a telephone call from my sister to tell me she had found an old notebook belonging to our father and written inside was an account of this raid and others relating to his wartime experience, she read out the note which he had written at the age of 81, it gave more information and roused my interest all over again. I typed " Ashford Air Raid" into Google and was stunned to read about the events of 24th. March 1943. This was the first time I had become aware of this attack on Ashford and just thought his experience had occurred early in the war.

I probed on the internet and soon realized that this must have been the raid and the day when our Dad defended the railway yard at Ashford, the story as related to myself and brother together with the notes surly prove this.
Attached are copies of his hand written notes, difficult to read due to his shaky hand and age.

The only vital problem with the story is that I believe the only aircraft destroyed on that day was a FW190 and in his written report he claims an ME109, Could he have mistaken the identity of the aircraft or did he optimistically believe the aircraft he hit was the FW190 of Paul Keller?
The incident must have taken just a few seconds in actual time but by 1943 my father was a very experienced anti-aircraft gunner and even in old age could usually identify any aircraft he may have seen on an old war film or at an air display.
I do not know if he shot down the FW190 of Paul Keller but I am sure he thought he had shot down one of the aircraft attacking the people of Ashford on that day in 1943, He told little of his wartime experiences to anyone, bragged not at all and as far as I know did not even claim his campaign medals.

John Bowman. North Wales. UK

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Old 23rd March 2013, 22:56
Rome Colonel
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Re: Ashford Air Raid, A Gunners Story.

Fascinating story! Thanks for posting.

According to The Blitz - Then and Now (p. 237 and 239) Keller was flying an FW-190 A-5 (2587). His aircraft (Black 7+) was downed at 1005 by AA fire, crashing in pieces on Godinton Rd. The only other aircraft listed as lost that day was a Ju-88.

Oberleutnant Paul Keller, born 23 January 1918, was staffelkapitan of 10/JG 54. He is buried in the German plot in Folkestone New Cemetery in Hawkinge.

Fifty people were killed in the raid and 77 seriously injured.
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Old 28th March 2013, 13:43
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Chris Goss Chris Goss is offline
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Re: Ashford Air Raid, A Gunners Story.

John: You really need to read my book as it will give you all the answers you seek. Suffice it to say, there were no Bf 109s, Keller was not 19 but he did have the German Cross in Gold
Chris
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