Euan Dickson was one of the most successful Allied bomber pilots of the First World War, flying 175 daylight raids and destroying or sending down out of control 14 enemy aircraft with the help of his observer.
Born in Sheffield, England, on 31 March 1892, Dickson emigrated to New Zealand in 1912 to take up a job at an engineering firm in Thames. In 1916, he returned to England to serve in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), the air arm of the Royal Navy, and later in the Royal Air Force (RAF). For most of his service, Dickson flew Airco DH.4 aircraft from bases in the Dunkirk area, taking part in bombing raids against German aerodromes and transport hubs in occupied Belgium.
Dickson led at least 100 of the 175 raids he flew between May 1917 and August 1918. With the RNAS he won the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar, the first for a raid on a Belgian aerodrome and railway station in ‘extremely unfavourable weather conditions’.
The bar was awarded for an action on the 16th March, 1918, when he went to the assistance of a machine of his formation which was being attacked at close quarters by twelve enemy fighters. Despite the fact that all the guns on his machine were useless owing to lack of ammunition, he turned and charged the hostile formation, splitting it up and diverting their attention from the other machine, thus undoubtedly saving it.
With the RAF he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his services during the German offensive from March to July 1918.
Dickson returned to New Zealand after the war and worked for the Canterbury Aviation Company in Christchurch. In 1920, he became the first pilot to fly across Cook Strait. The following year, he piloted the inaugural flight of New Zealand's first regular air mail service between Christchurch and Timaru.
He died in Auckland on 10 March 1980, aged 87.
By Gareth Phipps