Gow, Roderick George Alastair

He was the elder son of James Cuthbert Gow, of Regent’s Park, London, and Katharine Gow (daughter of Benjamin George Wood). His younger brother was James Michael Gow (C 1937-42). He came into College from Horris Hill, had nearly two years in Senior Division and would probably have got a Classical Scholarship at Oxford if he had not elected to go up to Christ Church as a Commoner a year early in order to gain time later to study Modern Languages for the Foreign Office. He earned a place in Lords in his last year as a wicket-keeper, and in the Eton Match of that year stumped five Etonians and caught one.

He had spent only one year at Oxford when war broke out. He joined up at once, and after five months in 121st OCTU was given a commission in the Royal Artillery. Unluckily for him, he did so well in a “Gas” Course that he was selected as an instructor and after spending a long time in an Anti-Gas School, was first sent overseas to Algiers to be a Gas-Officer attached to GHQ. He was anxious to get into action against the enemy, and to escape his gas duties volunteered first for training as a pilot, and later for airborne service. This at last brought him into close action, for he was with the famous 1st Airborne Division, dropped at Arnhem in September 1944. Gow was acting as a Forward Observation Officer with the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (2 South Staffords). Another Wykehamist serving with 2 South Staffords, Major the Hon. John Mellor Simonds (E1928-1934), of HQ Company, (see individual entry) was fatally wounded in action in the same fighting on September 19th 1944 in which Gow himself was killed.

Gow’s parent unit, 1 Forward (Airborne) Observation Unit, Royal Artillery was split up into small parties attached to other units to help summon artillery support. The unit as a whole went in seventy-three strong; only twenty-three were evacuated at the end of the battle, the rest had been killed or were missing.

Although the actions of the parachute troops at Arnhem Bridge itself are well known, the contribution of glider-borne troops such as 2 South Staffords is less famous.  Furthermore, the confusion of the battle was such that it is unclear exactly how and when Gow and Simonds died.

In three days of intense fighting Gow was in the thick of the action, showing personal bravery “far in excess of the call of duty” as eye-witnesses recorded.   He was cited for an award for his actions during this chaotic battle, but never returned to receive it.   Gow was at first reported “missing, believed Prisoner of War.”   After a year’s uncertainty, his grave was found near Arnhem Bridge.

He now lies in grave 15.C.7 of the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.







War: World War 2

  • Surname: Gow
  • Forenames or initials: Roderick George Alastair
  • House: College
  • Years in School: 1933-1938
  • Rank: Captain
  • Regiment: Airborne Observation Unit, Royal Artillery
  • Date of Birth: 1st May 1920
  • Date of Death: 19th September 1944
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Arnhem Oosterbeck War Cemetery: Grave 15.C.7