Marcus Bicknell writes… A letter found yesterday deep in my dad’s photos and correspondance.
23rd August 1940
Officer Commanding, No. 101 Squadron, Royal Air Force, West Raynham
Report on accident to Blenheim N. 3574 during operations on the night of 19.8.40
I have the honour to submit the following report concerning the above accident.
2. On the afternoon before operations the pilot tested the machine especially carefully, as it had never been used on operations, and he had never flown it at all. At various engine speeds on the ground and in the air, testing the ignition switches never produced a rev. drop of more than 50. Being a new aircraft the flying controls were stiff but everything else seemed in really good order.
3. Taking off on operations at 2200 hours the aircraft flew perfectly until halfway across the North Sea when at 5,000 feet the port engine cut completely on all cylinders and almost immediately picked up again. This happened three times. When crossing the Dutch coast the port engine cut finally. Usual cockpit control procedure was carried out and the trip was continued on one engine, the balance cock being opened.
4. Hammstede aerodrome was bombed from 5,000 feet but soon after turning for home the aircraft started losing height, in spite of the starboard engine running at +5 boost. Outer tanks and flares were jettisoned, air screws were put in fine pitch, turret was lowered, mixture control was in rich, intake control was in hot air, but the aircraft would not keep height. At 100 feet, +9 boost was used until the aircraft reached 1000 feet, this procedure was repeated again but the third time the aircraft failed to gain height on +9 boost. The speed was slowly dropping off as the aircraft was held above the surface of the sea. The Air Gunner checked up the dinghy, and upper hatches were opened. A trawler was seen, a red Verey light was shot off and the speed dropped to 60 m.p.h. before the aircraft hit the water.
5. When the aircraft hit the rough sea the nose was immediately broken in and the cabin was completely filled with water. Both pilot and observer were thrown violently forward, the cabin hatch was jerked forward and clicked shut. The pilot got out through the broken windscreen and the Observer shortly afterwards. The rear hatch was open and the fuselage was full of water to within a foot of the hatch. The pilot and observer tried to pull the unconscious Air Gunner out of the hatch and the water by his feet but failed to do so owing to the weight of his sodden clothes and the lack of help from him before the aircraft sank in about four or five minutes.
6. The trawler had sighted the aircraft did not come near for fear or exploding magnetic mines which might be in the aircraft. The pilot and observer were in the water for 30 minutes before they were picked up by the trawler’s boat. It was found impossible to blow up the lifejackets in the rough seas, as when both hands were used to unscrew the valve, both pilot and observer started sinking.
7. The Observer lost consciousness as soon as he was picked up out of the water but came round when some of the water was emptied out of him. The pilot’s head was cut about as a result of the landing. The trawler “Controller” of Aberdeen landed both at Lowestoft at about 0900 hours on 20.8.40.
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,
Nigel Bicknell (signed) Pilot Officer. Pilot of their aircraft.
He and Gingell got the DFC.