49 Squadron Awards
27/28 February, 1943: FRISIAN ISLANDS (MINELAYING):
At 10.00hrs Group requested one aircraft for a gardening sortie off the Frisian Islands. A new crew piloted by Sgt Ed Tickler (ED434) was given the task and took-off from Fiskerton at 18.59hrs on this, their first operation.
Sgt Tickler had flown in this same aircraft to Cologne the previous evening, as 2nd dickie to S/Ldr Couch. On arriving in the target area, Sgt Tickler’s aircraft, now flying at low level, was engaged by gunfire from a flak-ship. The Lancaster's gunners returned fire in an attempt to silence the ship's guns, but during this exchange the aircraft rear turret was slightly damaged . The crew pressed-on in poor visibility but ran into searchlights and more light-flak; this time the Lancaster received numerous hits in the cockpit, port wing and again in the rear turret. In the encounter the flight engineer, Sgt Downing received severe head injuries which were to prove fatal.
The pilot had been hit in the shoulder and his left side and momentarily lost control of the aircraft. Fortunately control was soon regained with the assistance of the navigator, Sgt Matthews. Despite this damage the crew managed to carry out their duties and dropped the mines in the correct place. It was only after carrying out the task that Sgt Tickler informed the crew of his injuries.
Whilst Sgt Lowens, the bomb aimer, helped fly the aircraft, Sgt Webb, the wireless operator, gave the pilot first-aid and tried to help the dying flight engineer. After crossing the Lincolnshire coast near North Coates, the crew spotted the small grass airfield at RAF Donna Nook. With the assistance of his crew, Sgt Tickler made a good landing, but then collapsed with exhaustion over the controls.
The Lancaster swung off the grass runway and struck a military vehicle that had come to the aid of the stricken aircraft.
The unfortunate flight engineer, Sgt D. Downing, sadly died from the injuries he received.
For their actions this night:
Sgt Edward Wells Tickler received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
Sgt J.L. Mathews RCAF the DFM
Sgt G.J. Lowans RCAF the DFM
Sgt G.B. Silvester the DFM
Sgt M.G. Webb RCAF Mentioned in Dispatches
Sgt W.A. Davies Mentioned in Despatches.
Sgt Tickler later received his commission.