War secret exposes a local hero
By DAWN COHEN
AN INTERNATIONAL secret was blown 35 years early yesterday in a quiet ceremony at the Ballina Naval Museum honouring Alstonville man, Ron Dowle.
Jim Lord, Ballina Naval Association vice-president, presented the former naval seaman with a framed montage commemorating the HMS Glorious disaster.
In 1940 Ron Dowle, then a 20-year-old, was one of 1500 crew aboard the aircraft carrier and her two escorting destroyers, HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta.
They were attacked by German forces during the withdrawal of Allied forces from Norway.
In less than two hours, two German battle cruisers sunk the three ships, dunking Ron and his fellow crew mates into an icy Arctic Ocean.
Only 39 survived the following three days and nights on rafts without food or water.
Now aged 85, Mr Dowle said he was still haunted by the attack.
"I still lock myself up on the anniversary," he said.
"Those men were my family.
"An admiral told me I couldn't talk about it for 100 years.
"I told no-one except my family."
The 100-year Secrecy Act was broken when a British film company made a video of the event in 1998.
However, the documentary-makers did not identify Mr Dowle as a survivor because of another bungle ? the incorrect spelling of his name in hospital survivor lists.
"I don't know how they found me, but last year I got a call at 2.30 in the morning," said the widower.
"Getting this picture is the end of 65 years of secrecy.
"But I wish it had come in time for my wife, Mary, to see it."
The montage is a gift from the UK Glarac Association for friends and relatives of the crew.
Mr Dowle is one of only two survivors of the attack still living.
"Now at least my children and my children's children can know it is really true," Mr Dowle said.