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Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Lowman

Brigadier Frank Lowman in the post-war period

Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Harrington Lowman

 

Unit : Headquarters Royal Engineers, 6th Airborne Division

Army No. : 53650

Awards : Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Distinguished Service Order

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Lowman commanded all of the 6th Airborne Division's Royal Engineers. He was amongst the officers of Major-General Gale's staff who travelled to I Corps HQ in late February 1944, where the Division first received its orders for the Invasion and then worked out the broad outline of their plan, which was scarcely altered in the months thereafter. One of the major modifications, however, came about as a result of the anti-glider poles that the Germans began to erect on any patch of land where an airborne landing could conceivably take place. It was decided that the 591st Parachute Squadron would drop with the first wave of parachutists and work hard to clear the stakes from LZ-N in time for the first glider lift. Frank Lowman took charge of dealing with this problem, and very soon had his engineers very ably trained in the art of felling the stakes with explosives. Lowman explains the process:

 

"There remained the problem of dropping the poles and then removing them. Permission was obtained to fell some 100 trees in the New Forest, something unheard of in peacetime, and these were then transported to Bulford Fields on Salisbury Plain where they were erected according to the pattern in the air photographs. Following trials of various possible methods a standard drill was evolved as follows: (a) The ground around the base of each pole was excavated to a depth of 6in and about 12in out from the pole. (b) A 5lb sausage of plastic explosive was attached round the base of the pole to be fired by safety fuse and igniter. These sausages were made up in bicycle inner tubes and carried down by parachute engineers as bandoliers. (c) Each pole was then removed by human porterage provided by an infantry working party and the shallow crater filled in and stamped down. Demolished poles were carried away to the side of the {landing} strip and laid at the base of a standing boundary pole and at 45º to the axis of the strip to allow gliders to turn off. Six infantry teams of twelve men were required for each strip and they were headed by a RE NCO to ensure a safe separation from the demolition parties."

 

Lowman was badly wounded by an exploding mine during the Normandy campaign. For his actions throughout he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:

 

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty over a period of weeks. Lieutenant-Colonel Lowman has since the moment he landed in Normandy shown the most excellent example to all Engineers in the division. The tasks allotted to the divisional Engineers, both in the initial stages and later in the occupation of the bridgehead has been hazardous. That the has carried out the tasks as effectively and efficiently as they have, has to no small measure been attributable to the close supervision and care of Lieutenant-Colonel Lowman. He has exposed himself to danger quite regardless of risks whenever he considered his presence desirable. The spirit of his example has been an inspiration to his engineers up to the time of his being severely wounded in a forward position.

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Lowman was also the driving force behind several monuments in the 6th Airborne Division's area. The arrival of the 51st Highland Division east of the River Orne had resulted in their tradition of painting "HD" letters on the places where they had fought; the Airborne troops subsequently nicknaming them the "Highway Decorators". Lowman approached Major-General Gale and received permission to install their own insignia, using the Airborne emblem of Bellerophon riding Pegasus, on Bénouville Bridge. The result was officially unveiled in the presence of local dignitaries on the 26th June 1944. Lieutenant-Colonel Lowman similarly obtained permission to erect a cross of his design in the Divisional cemetery at Ranville. The result, modelled by Sapper Hanslip of the 286th Field Park Company, still stands in the Cemetery today. Due to an obvious scarcity of marble, Hanslip used cement but gave it a marble-like quality by adding coal dust. Two copper plaques, made from the air bottles in an abandoned glider, were added to the cross, one showing Pegasus, the other reading "6 JUNE 1944".

 

Frank Lowman was later promoted to Brigadier, and after the War he wrote a report on the actions of the 6th Airborne's engineers on D-Day. This may be seen here.

 

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