The story of three fearless flying brothers

THREE remarkable brothers from Horsell are commemorated in a book that details their heroic service in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Eric and twins Stuart and Stanley Muller-Rowland were involved in some perilous operations as bomber pilots.

Stuart and Stanley Muller-Rowland in uniform after joining the Royal Air Force

Two did not survive the war and the third went on to become a test pilot for early jet aircraft, taking enormous risks that cost him his life too.

Their story is told in Flying Fast and Low, by author and military historian David James Parker.

“The three brothers were part of an incredible family in Horsell,” he said. “Their father, John, was Swiss by birth and became a British citizen in 1922.”

“He worked for Louis Dreyfus corn merchants and became the UK manager for the company after working in Russia, Burma and India.”

John’s birth name was Hans Muller. He married Daisy Rowland in 1910 and they began officially using the surname Muller-Rowland when he changed his name by deed poll in 1924.

John and Daisy had six children, three girls and three boys. While living in Church Hill House in Horsell for nearly 20 years, they became deeply involved in the local community.

He worked on behalf of the village school and raised money for Woking Hospital and Daisy was a prominent member of the Women’s Institute and became president of the Surrey federation.

While still working in the grain trade, John also became something of a country gentleman, buying Wapshot Farm on Horsell Common and establishing a milk round, selling products from his dairy herd.

John died, aged 49, in 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War – a conflict in which his sons were to excel as pilots.

The cover of Flying Fast and Low, featuring (from left) Stanley, Stuart and Eric Muller-Rowland

“They were highly respected by everyone they served with,” said David, who combines his interest in military history and writing books with his day job as a chimney sweep. “All three of them took part in the most dangerous type of operations for any bomber crew.

“Their work involved low flying over sea and land on anti-shipping attacks and Stuart went on to attack targets in Burma.”

Eric’s first operations took place off the Norwegian coast before he was posted to Tunisia as a flying officer. He was killed when his Beaufighter aircraft crashed into the Mediterranean in June 1943 while setting out on a low-level patrol.

Stanley learned to fly in South Africa and was stationed in Malta and then Tunisia, where he was on the same airfield as Eric. He flew with his brother two days before his fatal crash.

On completion of two tours of duty in that theatre, Stanley was posted back to Britain with the rank of squadron leader. His Beaufighter was shot down during a raid on the Dutch coast in October 1944. For his dedication to duty and “faultless leadership”, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on two occasions.

Stuart also trained in South Africa and operated from North Africa for a short time before being sent to India. He survived many dangerous sorties at tree-top level over the jungle and returned to the UK in 1944 with the rank of squadron leader.

While serving during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and twice won the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He stayed in the RAF after the war and became a test pilot in 1947. After training, at the Empire Test Pilots School, he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.

Stuart was killed on 15 February 1950 while flying the De Havilland 108 Swallow experimental jet fighter. The aircraft broke up during a steep dive from 27,000 feet and crashed into a field, an incident that was blamed on a faulty oxygen system incapacitating the pilot.

“The brothers were remarkably good leaders and fearless in their fighting capability,” said David. “It does make you wonder what they might have achieved had they lived full lives.

“My intention is for the book to serve as a memorial to the brothers and to the crew members who lost their lives serving alongside them.”

Flying Fast and Low is David’s third book and second with a similar theme. His first book, Missing, The Wartime Account of Two Brothers, was published in 2019 and he has also written Fragments, A Collection in Words and Pictures, the First World War, that covers items from his First World War collection.

Flying Fast and Low is available at £12.99 from www.libripublishing.co.uk and is on sale in bookshops including Waterstones and the Apples and Pears gift shop in Horsell.

For more on this story, get the 11 November edition of the News & Mail

Recommended For You

About the Author: Editorial Team