In Memory of (see report below)


Flight Sergeant
214 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
who died on
Tuesday, 23rd November 1943. Age 20.

Additional Information:

Son of John and Isabella Atkinson, of Wheatley Hill, Co. Durham.


Commemorative Information


RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL, Surrey, United Kingdom

Grave Reference/
Panel Number:

Panel 135.


This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper's Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.

Historical Information:

The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They came from all parts of the Commonwealth and some were from countries in continental Europe which had been over-run but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. The memorial, designed by Sir Edward Maufe, is in the form of a cloister with the names of the dead, grouped by year, inscribed on the Hadene stone reveals and mullions of the narrow windows. On the cloister ceilings are emblazoned the arms of the Commonwealth countries. The cloisters have curved wings, terminating in two look-outs, one facing towards Windsor Castle and the other towards Heathrow Airport. The structure is in Portland stone with roofs of Westmorland green slate.


Headquarters Bomber Command,                                                         Serial Nos…………..A .212.

ROYAL AIR FORCE                                                                          Page No…………….1









            The Commander-in-Chief wishes to bring to the notice of all ranks in the Command the fortitude, courage and perseverance of the undermentioned N.C.Os. of No.214 Squadron:


            1485104 F/Sgt.            G.A. Atkinson,             Captain & Pilot.            (missing).

            1388280 Sgt.               H.J. Friend,                  Bomb-Aimer.

            1807915 Sgt.               D.C. Hughes,               Flight Engineer.

            1513213 Sgt.               W.B. Edwards,                        Navigator.

            1892607 Sgt.               R.L. Bouttell,                Mid-Upper Gunner.

            1368303 Sgt.               J.C.Wilson,                  Wireless-Operator.

            R.79844 Sgt.                W.Sweeney,                 Rear-Gunner.               (wounded & missing).


            The above-named formed the crew of a Stirling aircraft detailed to bomb Berlin on the night of 22nd/23rd November 1943. Just before they reached the target area the oil pressure on the port outer engine began to drop and the captain noticed that the propeller was revolving at excessive speed. He decided to complete the bombing run and the Bomb-Aimer sighted and released the bombs correctly one minute after E.T.A.  dangerously low and the propeller was feathered to prevent a seizure wit the result that the aircraft was losing height. At 9,000 ft. it was dropping into icing cloud and the pilot restarted the engine to gain more height for crossing a bad front. The engine started but had to be stopped almost immediately to prevent it catching fire and the propeller then failed to refeather but continued to “windmill”. The aircraft lost height steadily until it was only 1500 ft. above ground at a position given by the Navigator as 20 miles east of Hanover. Near this place, the aircraft was engaged by “flak” which wounded the Rear-Gunner in the right leg but he refused to leave the turret.

            The Wireless-Operator sent out an S.O.S. at about 21.45 hours and repeated it until it was acknowledged. It was picked up at 22.30 as a very faint signal and he was given a fix. From then onwards, although reception was very bad, he maintained communication with the ground sending the height, speed, course and D.R. position, obtained from Navigator, at intervals.

            Near the Zuider Zee, the aircraft was picked up by the searchlights which were attacked by the gunners and, crossing the island at about 50 ft. the aircraft was again engaged by flak and searchlights; fifteen to twenty five of the latter were shot at by the gunners and doused. A F.W. 190 intercepted the Stirling but was shot down in flames by the Rear-Gunner.

            When the Flight-Engineer reported there was only 10 minutes of fuel remaining, the captain ordered the crew to take up their ditching stations. Because of icing, a head wind and the wind-milling airscrew, the speed had been very low. Information of their plight was signaled to the ground station and the aircraft was fixed accurately as the Operator pressed his key down when the aircraft ditched halfway across the North Sea at 00.34 hours. Prior to ditching , the Captain called out the height of the aircraft as it approached the water and the Navigator gave him a surface………???????

            The aircraft bounced off a swell and then made a very heavy impact with the water which caused the nose to sink in and the fuselage to break in half. The pilot was trapped in the nose and went under as the aircraft broke in two. The Navigator jumped into the dinghy and dragged in the Mid-Upper Gunner from the water. They heard the Wireless Operator calling, paddled up to him and helped him on board. The Rear-Gunner, who had been observed to jump into the sea was also heard to call but they failed to find him and he was not picked up. After drifting for about an hour blowing their whistles, they heard an answering whistle, in the darkness, and eventually picked up the Flight Engineer from his “K” type dinghy. When the Stirling hit the sea, the Bomb-Aimer got out of the astro hatch but was swept into the sea by the waves. The Flight Engineer passed him a “K” dinghy which was swept away. The Bomb-Aimer re-entered the almost submerged fuselage, found another “K” dinghy, held his breath and swam out again as the aircraft sank, three minutes after ditching. He inflated the dinghy and climbed in, but although he heard other members of the crew shouting and answered, he was too weak to paddle towards the sound and lost touch with them. After sunrise, he hoisted a red sail and fired a star cartridge when an Air-Sea Rescue Hudson approached. The Hudson crew dropped smoke floats alongside and he was shortly after taken on board a high speed launch which continued the search and picked up the other four surviving members of the crew from the big dinghy about 40 minutes later. The Captain and Rear-Gunner could not be found.

            This crew excercised very strong determination to inflict as much damage on the enemy as possible in spite of their difficulties and they showed and excellent team spirit. It was this good team work and initiative that made possible the long and difficult flight to the point when the aircraft finally ditched and the successful rescue of five members of the crew after attacking their target successfully.




Sgt. A.P.W ….……

Air Vice Marshal

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