Cyril Lowe

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Cyril Lowe
Cyril Lowe 1913.png
Full name Cyril Lowe
Date of birth (1891-10-07)7 October 1891
Place of birth Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England
Date of death 6 February 1983(1983-02-06) (aged 91)
School Dulwich College
University Cambridge University
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Wing
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1911-1913
1913-
Cambridge University
Blackheath
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1913-1923 England 25 (58)
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–1919
1921–1944
Rank Group Captain
Unit
Commands held
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
World War II
Awards Military Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross

Cyril Nelson "Kit" Lowe MCDFC (7 October 1891 – 6 February 1983) was an English rugby union footballer who held England's international try scoring record for over sixty years, a First World War flying ace credited with nine victories, and supposedly the inspiration for W. E. Johns' character "Biggles".[1]

Early life[edit]

Lowe was born in Holbeach, Lincolnshire. He attended Dulwich College where he was a boarder in Orchard House.[2] There he edited the school magazine, the Alleynian from 1910 to 1911, as his fellow alumnus P.G.Wodehouse had done previously. At Dulwich he excelled at a number of sports, and represented the school in boxing, athletics, swimming, cricket and rugby.[3] He captained the Athletics squad in 1911 and in the same year played for the first XI cricket squad. In this same cricket side he played alongside future England captain, Arthur Gilligan, the future Essex wicket-keeper Frank Gilligan and R K Nunes the future captain of the West Indies. Eclipsing these sporting achievements was his record as a rugby player. He was in the side first XV from 1908 and was in the unbeaten first XV rugby union squad in 1909 which contained five future internationals dubbed the 'Famous Five'.[4] These five would all go on to play in the 1913 Varsity match, (and also produced the captains of both Oxford and Cambridge in 1919), and all served in the First World War. They were Eric Loudoun-Shand and Grahame Donald who both went on to play for Scotland, W. D. Doherty who went on to play for and captain Ireland, J. E. Greenwood who went on to play for and captain England and Cyril Lowe himself. He then went on to captain the side in 1910-11. Despite his sporting prowess, Lowe was not physically imposing, standing 5'8" and weighing around nine-and-a-half stone while at school. His small stature led to his nickname at school being "Tich" Lowe.[2] He was described by the school magazine, The Alleynian, as "A first rate centre three-quarter. Very fast, with a capital pair of hands, a first-rate dodge on a dry ground, and a good pair of feet on the wet."

He went on to Cambridge University where he won rugby blues in 1911, 1912 and 1913, making him a rare triple blue.

Rugby career[edit]

Cyril Lowe, whilst still at Cambridge, was called up to play for England in 1913. This was to be the beginning of an international career that spanned either side of the First World War, in which he scored a record 18 tries in 25 internationals and was on the losing side only three times, twice to Wales and once to South Africa. He played in four Grand Slam-winning sides until his retirement in 1923. IN 1913 and 1914 he won back-to-back Five Nation Grand Slams and his eight try haul in 1914 remains a Championship record, only ever equalled by one other player, Ian Smith of Scotland.[5] His tally of tries remained a record until overtaken by another RAF pilot, Rory Underwood, in 1989.

At club level, after leaving Cambridge, Lowe represented Blackheath, and was later the RAF representative on the Rugby Union Committee.

Lowe's sporting career was interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, and he did return to play for England until 1920. He retired from international rugby in 1923 with 25 caps, and would have gained more were it not for the war. His career total 18 tries remained an English record until it was equalled and later surpassed by Royal Air Force pilot Rory Underwood in 1989, 66 years after Lowe's retirement. It has subsequently been achieved by other players, though internationals are more frequent in the modern game and are generally higher scoring.

International tries[edit]

Lowe tackled by Dedet in 1913 vs France
Statistics[3]
Try Opposing team Location Venue Competition Date Result
1  Ireland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 14 February 1914 Won
2  Ireland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 14 February 1914 Won
3  Scotland Inverleith, Scotland Inverleith Five Nations Championship 21 March 1914 Won
4  Scotland Inverleith, Scotland Inverleith Five Nations Championship 21 March 1914 Won
5  Scotland Inverleith, Scotland Inverleith Five Nations Championship 21 March 1914 Won
6  France Colombes near Paris, France Colombes Stadium Five Nations Championship 13 April 1914 Won
7  France Colombes near Paris, France Colombes Stadium Five Nations Championship 13 April 1914 Won
8  France Colombes near Paris, France Colombes Stadium Five Nations Championship 13 April 1914 Won
9  Ireland Dublin, Ireland Lansdowne Road Five Nations Championship 14 February 1920 Won
10  Scotland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 20 March 1920 Won
11  Wales Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 15 January 1921 Won
12  Ireland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 12 February 1921 Won
13  France Colombes near Paris, France Colombes Stadium Five Nations Championship 28 March 1921 Won
14  Wales Cardiff, Wales Cardiff Arms Park Five Nations Championship 21 January 1922 Lost
15  Ireland Dublin, Ireland Lansdowne Road Five Nations Championship 11 February 1922 Won
16  Scotland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 18 March 1922 Won
17  Scotland Twickenham, England Twickenham Five Nations Championship 18 March 1922 Won
18  Ireland Leicester, England Welford Road Stadium Five Nations Championship 10 February 1923 Won

Military career[edit]

World War I[edit]

Joining the army soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Lowe was commissioned into the Army Service Corps as a temporary second lieutenant on 31 August 1914.[6] He was promoted to lieutenant on 20 January 1915,[7] and to captain on 30 April 1916.[8]

Lowe was transferred to the General List to serve in the Royal Flying Corps, and appointed a flying officer on 30 September 1916.[9] He was posted to No. 11 Squadron,[10] and was appointed a flight commander on 11 February 1917.[11] Flying a F.E.2b with observer/gunner Second Lieutenant G. Masters, Lowe gained his first victory on 15 March 1917, destroyed a Type C aircraft over Bailleul. On 24 March he drove down out of control an Albatros D.III over Fontaine-lès-Croisilles, but was wounded when shot down by Reinhold Jörke later on the same day. Lowe returned to flying duty in early 1918, when posted to No. 24 Squadron, flying the S.E.5a single-seat fighter. Between 23 April and 1 July 1918 Lowe scored seven more victories, sharing one with Lieutenant Ronald T. Mark, destroying three and driving down four more out of control, to bring his total to nine.[10]

Lowe was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which was gazetted on 2 August 1918. His citation read:

Captain Cyril Nelson Lowe, MC.
"This officer has destroyed five enemy machines and driven down two others out of control. On one occasion he attacked two enemy triplanes, although at the time only one of his guns was serviceable; he shot down one of the machines in flames. On another occasion, while leading a formation of eight scouts he engaged a hostile formation of twenty-six machines. Having shot down a Fokker biplane he went to the assistance of one of our scouts and drove the enemy machine down to 500 feet; at this low altitude half of a blade of his propeller was shot off by fire from the ground."[12]

This was followed by the award of the Military Cross, gazetted on 13 September 1918. The citation read:

Captain Cyril Nelson Lowe, General List, attached Royal Air Force.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer and another pilot were escorting a formation of machines engaged on a bombing raid when seven enemy scouts attacked the bombers. They both attacked these scouts, but at the outset this officer's machine was set on fire, and the other pilot's right hand top plane broke. During the fight that ensued each came to the rescue of the other. The other pilot first caused Capt. Lowe's pursuer to break off his attack, and then Capt. Lowe shot down the scout attacking his comrade. The action of both these officers, in practically unmanceuvrable machines, in coming to the rescue of each other in turn, showed courage and self-sacrifice of a very high order."[13]

Lowe left the RAF after the war, being transferred to unemployed list on 2 March 1919.[14]

Post-war career[edit]

Lowe returned to serve in the Royal Air Force on a three-year short service commission with the rank of flight lieutenant on 12 January 1921,[15][16] but this was later cancelled and he was granted a permanent commission on 17 April 1923, backdated to January 1921.[17] He was promoted to squadron leader on 1 July 1925,[18] and was posted to the Headquarters of the Special Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force on 7 September 1925.[19] However, on 14 September 1925 he was appointed temporary commander of No. 602 City of Glasgow (Bombing) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force.[20][21] On 1 April 1926 he was appointed commander of No. 1 Squadron, based in Iraq,[22] and on 1 November 1926 was transferred to No. 6 Armoured Car Company.[23]

Lowe eventually returned to England, and was commander of No. 43 Squadron, based at RAF Tangmere by June 1928,[24] the squadron becoming highly regarded for their aerobatic displays.[25] He was posted to No. 2 Flying Training School, based at RAF Digby, on 18 November 1930.[26] Lowe was promoted to wing commander on 1 January 1933,[27] and in August was appointed chief instructor of the Oxford University Air Squadron, succeeding Keith Park, and being the first Cambridge man to command the Oxford Squadron.[28] On 31 December 1937 Lowe was promoted to group captain,[29] and retired from the Royal Air Force on 7 October 1944.[30]

Lowe died in 1983, aged 91.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Westerby, John. "Sky is the limit for Cueto after overtaking Biggles on take-off". The Times. Retrieved 23 April 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b "Eminent Old Alleynians : Sport". Dulwich College. 
  3. ^ a b "Statsguru - Player analysis - Cyril Lowe". ESPN Scrum. 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Piggot, Jan (2008). Dulwich College: A History, 1616-2008. ISBN 0-9539493-2-X. 
  5. ^ Mudaly, L. (13 February 2011). "England 59 Italy 13 - The Rugby World Index Ratings". Rugby World. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28898. p. 7195. 8 September 1914.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29059. p. 1193. 2 February 1915.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29588. p. 4975. 19 May 1916.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29790. p. 10067. 17 October 1916.
  10. ^ a b "Cyril Nelson Lowe". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29958. p. 1881. 23 February 1917.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30827. p. 9201. 2 August 1918.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30901. p. 10980. 13 September 1918.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31239. p. 3635. 18 March 1919.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32209. p. 781. 28 January 1921.
  16. ^ "Short Service Commissions". Flight XIII (632): 87. 3 February 1921. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 32815. p. 2816. 17 April 1923.
  18. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33063. p. 4456. 3 July 1925.
  19. ^ "Royal Air Force: Appointments". Flight XVII (872): 589. 10 September 1925. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Royal Air Force: Appointments". Flight XVII (879): 711. 29 October 1925. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "Auxiliary Air Force". Flight XVII (876): 663. 8 October 1925. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "Royal Air Force: Appointments". Flight. XVIII (903): 231. 15 April 1926. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Royal Air Force: Appointments". Flight. XVIII (937): 819. 9 December 1926. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "The Midland Air Pageant". Flight XX (1016): 445. 14 June 1928. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "No. 43 (Fighter) Squadron". Flight XXII (1134): 1042-1044. 19 September 1930. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  26. ^ "Royal Air Force: Appointments". Flight XXII (1145): 1423. 5 December 1930. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  27. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33898. p. 16. 30 December 1932.
  28. ^ "Oxford University Air Squadron". Flight XXVI (1340): 904. 30 August 1934. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  29. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34468. p. 8194. 31 December 1937.
  30. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36748. p. 4737. 13 October 1944.

External links[edit]