No. 936289 Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve;
No. 58 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Died 23 December 1940, aged 20 years.
Commemorated on the Air Forces Runnymede Memorial,
Surrey, Panel 19.
James Rowlands was the first Old Coathamian to die on active service in the Second World War (followed five days later by William Eaton (q.v.): both were sergeants in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve).
No. 58 Squadron was part of RAF Bomber Command. It was stationed at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, between York and Harrogate, and was equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V bombers at the time of Sergeant Rowlands’s death. As one of the five-man crew of Whitley code-sign GE-J, he and the other crew members were killed when, destined for a bombing raid over Mannheim in Germany, the aircraft crashed into the sea off Torbay in Devon (although why it was so far west is not clear). The crew members were never recovered.
The Runnymede Memorial records the names of over 20,000 British and Commonwealth airmen who died in the Second World War with no known grave.
James Rowlands entered Coatham School in April 1934, aged thirteen, and joined Inghams’s House, in Form IIIA. His parents’ details are currently not known although he came as a fee-paying day boy. James’s participation in the Junior Dramatic Society’s production of ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ in December 1934 was noted in the school magazine. He passed his School Certificate examinations in July 1936. His occupation on leaving school that year is not known. In 1940 he was on the first published list of Old Coathamians in H.M. Forces, with his rank of Aircraftman Class 2 RAF, noted. He was first listed on the School’s Roll of Honour in July 1942.