Acting Squadron Leader Thomas Reginald Nixon, D.F.C., D.F.M., enlisted in the R.A.F. in early 1939 and commenced aircrew training at Sywell in April of the same year. Qualifying as an Air Observer / Navigator in the following August, he was posted to No. 78 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, a Whitley unit, but was quickly remustered with No. 77 Squadron at Driffield and on 18 December flew his first wartime mission, a ‘Security Patrol’ in a Whitley over Borkum and Sylt. But it would not be until April 1940 that he gained his next operational experience, in two ‘War Sorties’ flown to Oslo and Stuanger.
In the following month he joined the strength of No. 51 Squadron at Dishforth, another Whitley unit, sorties to Rheydt and Bapaume heralding the commencement of the busy schedule ahead - in June alone he flew on another 10 missions, Bremen, Duisburg, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Osnabruck and Saltzbergen being among the chosen targets. August saw an early strike on mainland Italy taking place on the night of 13-14 August, when Turin was attacked, and on the night of 25th-26th, Nixon participated in the first ever raid on Berlin, as ordered by Churchill following an attack on London the previous evening. The German capital was to be visited twice more by Nixon and his crew in September, the raid on the night of the 23rd-24th marking the first occasion in which Bomber Command decided to concentrate its main strength of bombers on just one enemy city. The results were promising. The last sortie of the month was a strike against the Scharnhorst in Kiel, Nixon’s aircraft gaining distinct hits in the docks. Further direct hits were obtained a few nights later in an attack on an armaments factory at Chemnitz, an outing that marked the successful conclusion of Nixon’s first tour of operations and the award of his D.F.M.
Indeed such was Nixon’s growing reputation as a first class Bomb Aimer that he was sent off on a Bombing Leader’s course, which he duly passed in November 1940, prior to joining his next operational posting, No. 35 Squadron, a Halifax unit, at Linton-on-Ouse in February 1941. His second tour commenced with a raid on the Blohm and Voss works at Hamburg on the night of 12-13 March, but no further sorties were flown until the following June, when Duisberg, Huls and Hannover were attacked in quick succession. On the latter occasion Nixon’s aircraft was engaged by an H.E. 113, north-east of Osnabruck, and badly mauled, the Rear-Gunner, though wounded, bravely remaining at his post. The bomb load had to be jettisoned and a crash landing was effected at Bircham Newton. Just ten nights later, while en route to Kiel, his aircraft was again engaged by an enemy night fighter, this time an M.E. 110. With the starboard engine put out of action, his pilot, Flying Officer J.W. Murray, D.F.C., D.F.M., once more had to jettison the bomb load and make haste for the U.K. Nixon was commissioned as a Pilot Officer two days later.
July witnessed Nixon’s crew participating in raids on Brunswick, Frankfurt and Leuna, and, on the 24th, in a daylight strike on the Scharnhorst at La Pallice, a hugely hazardous undertaking, all the more so for Nixon, who was chosen as Navigator and Bomb Aimer to Squadron Leader Bradley, D.S.O., D.F.C., pilot of the leading aircraft of No. 35’s formation. It was to prove a bumpy ride:
‘Took off at Stanton Harcourt at time stated and proceeded as Leader of the formation, the Squadron joining up in ‘Vic’ en route to la Rochelle to attack the German Battleship Scharnhorst. Both visibility and weather were excellent. Encountered intense heavy flak and numerous enemy aircraft immediately upon entering the target area. Good sight obtained on target but the bomb doors failed to open due to a hit by anti-aircraft fire. Doors did, however, open in time to deliver an attack on a moving Destroyer, South of the target, but evasive action was necessary in countering both flak and enemy aircraft attacks did not permit observation of result. The Rear-Gunner had one gun out of action and another firing only spasmodically, but he succeeded in defending the aircraft and shot down one of the enemy. During the attack and in the many hits scored by the enemy fighters, Sergeant Bolton, the 1st Wireless Operator, received injuries in the chest and died instantly, and Sergeant Rowley-Blake, the 2nd Pilot, received shrapnel wounds in the left thigh, calf and shoulder. Although the aircraft suffered damage to one propellor and the controls, and from the many other hits, it returned safely to England, landing at St. Eval at the time stated.’
Nixon had now completed over 40 operational sorties and was posted to No. 10 Operational Training Unit at Abingdon for a rest period. Inevitably, perhaps, this was not to prove the case, for he found himself selected to participate in the 1000 Bomber Raids on Cologne and Essen in late May and early June 1942, both sorties being carried out in Whitleys.
In September 1943, Nixon returned to the operational scene for his third tour, joining No. 7 Squadron, a Lancaster unit, at Oakington, as an Observer. Between then and his death in action in February 1944, he completed another nine sorties, the whole to such heavily defended German targets as Berlin (thrice), Hannover, Kassel, Magdeburg, Munich, Stettin and Stuttgart. His final sortie was flown against Leipzig on the night of 19-20 February 1944, his Lancaster ND 470 being reported missing. Nixon, whose D.F.C. was backdated to the date of his death, and his crew, were re-interred in a collective grave in the Berlin War Cemetery after the War.
Sold with the recipient’s original Flying Log Book, covering the period April 1939 to February 1944; and Air Ministry condolence slip.
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