49 Squadron Awards
The fourth aircraft failed to return from the operation; Engine trouble on the flight to Düsseldorf eventually forced Sgt pilot Woolston (X3134) and crew to ditch in the sea at 02.30hrs. They successfully evacuated the Hampden and climbed aboard the automatically released dinghy.
The crew now embarked upon an ordeal that was to last for nearly nine days. They survived on just a few ounces of chocolate, 36 Horlicks tablets, some boiled sweets and 1½ pints of water. Several RAF aircraft were seen during this time, but it was not until 10.43hrs on the morning of the ninth day that a Hampden (from Hemswell) passing within a quarter of a mile at 2,000ft spotted the mirror flashes from the downed airmen.
The Hampden dropped a dinghy close by and the Woolston crew were able to recover it with its much needed water supply and provisions. Eventually they were picked up by an RAF Launch. The four men were in remarkably good shape and after plenty of water and hot tea, they were able to go up on deck; the airmen were taken to SHQ No.16 R.C. Great Yarmouth.
But for the good sense shown by the crew whilst in the dinghy and the diligence displayed by the Hampden crew that spotted them, the end to this happy saga could have been so very tragic.
Sgt B. Woolston Pilot (Rescued)
Sgt P. McKay (Rescued)
Sgt E.B. Chandler (Rescued)
Sgt G. Wood (Rescued)