Royal Air Force pilot Alfred Edgar ‘Nick’ Nicklin.
For NZALPA legal secretary, Kyrie Gausden, every year on April 25 it’s a time to reflect on the contributions of all those who fought for their country in every war, particularly her beloved grandfather, former decorated Royal Air Force pilot, Alfred Edgar ‘Nick’ Nicklin.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) had been formed in 1923 from New Zealand elements of the British Royal Air Force. However many RNZAF aircrew, including Nick, continued to serve in the Force until the end of the 1940s.
Nick was commissioned as a Lancaster Bomber pilot in 1941. Three years later, on 22 June 1944, he saved himself and his crew by putting his plane down successfully in a rough North Sea, more than 90 kilometres short of East Anglia.
The New Zealand pilot had to contend with the Lancaster’s four engines failing one after the other during the homeward journey from Wesseling, Germany – just south of Cologne.
The fuel lines to the engines were damaged by a rocket that exploded under the aircraft just after the bomber had left the target.
The plane went down at 2am, with Nick at the helm. He managed to guide the plane towards the sea with no engine power to help.
In the cockpit, Nick’s head was said to have hit the Perspex above him so hard that he managed to forge a gap large enough for him to escape through.
One by one, all the crew emerged battered and bruised, but they managed to assemble and scramble aboard the plane’s emergency dinghy in the dark early morning. The seven-man crew languished seasick as they were hit by whitecaps on the dark sea. Nick’s head and face had been badly injured by the force of hitting the Perspex.
Their rescue came late that afternoon after being spotted by a Vickers Wellingtons bomber following a grid search.
“As a result of the crew frequently practising what to do in an emergency, they all survived when their plane went down,” Gausden said.
It wasn’t until Nick returned to his station – East Kirkby in Lincolnshire – that he and the crew realised the full extent of their luck. Almost 30 per cent of the attacking Lancaster planes had been lost on this single German mission. He returned from his tour in August 1944 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“Anzac Day is a great reminder of the courage and talent, not just of my Grandad Nick, but also of all of our servicemen and women,” Gausden said.
“It will always be a special day for me.”
After the war, Nick trained as a carpenter and worked also as a farmer. He died in Whangarei in 1993.
<< HIMS; Together for recovery Upcoming events >>