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Second Lieutenant David Dennys Fowler, Royal Flying Corps, 78 Squadron
First World War Air Force Australian
By Philip Baldock

United Kingdom

Second Lieutenant David Dennys Fowler
View record on CWGC
Died 17th March 1917, buried Rottingdean (St Margaret’s), Sussex
Second Lieutenant Fowler (copyright unknown)
A Be2 biplane (copyright unknown)

Second Lieutenant David Dennys Fowler, 78 Squadron, RFC...

...was born the 20th of June 1897 at Seawall, Glenelg, South Australia the son of James Fowler and Mary Harriett nee Morgan. [David Fowler went by his second name of Dennys (note spelling)].

About 1900 the family moved to England and took up residence in Knightsbridge where the 1901 census finds the family at 44 and 45 Albert Gate. All the family are recorded as born in South Australia. James aged 40 is a merchant grocer and employer. Mary is aged 31. The only child recorded is Dennys aged 4, a younger brother had died whilst the family was in Australia. Family servants were sisters Sarah and Kate Daly, aged 30 and 27, born Ireland, Lizzie Brookes aged 30 born Gloucestershire and Daisy Newton aged 18 born Chatham.

By 1909 the family had moved to “Redcourt” Wimbledon, where his mother died in 1915. The family also had a home, “Dyxcroft” at Rottingdean.

David was educated Wavetree pre-prep school at Furze Hill Hove where he was found in the 1911 census before going to Harrow, where he was part of the OTC, and Trinity College, Cambridge. At some point David became engaged to Miss Joan Waterhouse of Brighton.

He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and The London Gazette for the 28th of March 1916 announced his appointment to (probationary) 2nd Lieutenant. At this time he commenced flying training at Catterick, Yorkshire where he gained his Royal Aero Club certificate, number 3007 flying the Maurice Farman biplane. The led to his appointment to 2/Lt Flying Officer (F) on the 17th of July and a posting in September to 17 Squadron, flying BE2c reconnaissance aircraft in Salonica, Greece.

On the 5th of October 1916 he was flying a reconnaissance sortie with his observer 2/Lt J Hutchins, when his aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire. 2/Lt Hutchins was unhurt but Fowler was wounded in the feet and was sent to Tigne Hospital, Malta where he remained until December when he was invalided back to the UK.

Although his wounds would continue to give pain and discomfort, he recovered sufficiently to return to duty and was posted to 78 Squadron at Telscombe Cliffs, near Brighton; the squadron being engaged in Home Defence duties and David Fowler was placed in command of the airfield.

On the night of the 16th/17th of March 1917 he took off from Telscombe at 00.01 flying Be2c 7181 on an anti-Zeppelin patrol. At 00.10 his aircraft crashed about a mile north of the airfield and he was killed. He was buried with full military honours on the 20th of March, 1917 at St Margaret’s of Antioch, Rottingdean. He lies in a private, non-CWGC grave and is remembered at Wimbledon in the parish church.

An inquest was held at Newhaven into his death at which that the left wing struck the ground and the aircraft ended up inverted; the petrol rank caught fire and he killed. The exact cause of the crash is not known but the fact that it was so soon after he took off suggested that he might have had a problem with the aircraft and was returning to the airfield. His comrades testified that he was a competent and skilful pilot and a very brave and popular man. A verdict of accidental death was given.