Louis Walter Dickens  1903-1988 


Louis was only 15 when his mother, May Agnes died of pneumonia. His grand father, John, was living at The Cottage, Halton Holgate, near Spilsby and near to where his friend Maj. Henry Bowman was living at Halton Road, Spilsby.

           (Back Right)  Louis - Clongowes Wood College - Ireland - 1921

John's brothers Charles, Frank and Ernest had returned safely from the Boer War and Louis' brother, Arthur, had returned from his regiment in the Indian Army.

It was a sad home without their mother but their father, Charles, pressed on with getting Louis into Cranwell College.  It had been decided by May Agnes and Charles that each of their sons should represent a different arm of Britain's national defence. Of the girls, Lesley became a pharmacist and, in the war, an ambulance driver. Muriel became a milliner/dressmaker and, in the war, also drove an ambulance.

So it was that Arthur, the eldest passed into Sandhurst, Louis to Cranwell and the third son, Peter, was destined to go to sea.

All Charles' sons were athletic and had a good eye; some for the ball; some for the gals and some for both. All had a great sense of humour; I was lucky to have met Peter when he came out to South Africa in 1947 and Louis when my late husband, Leslie, and myself visited him and Maureen in the 80's. Les and I liked them both and Maureen was bemused seeing the same reaction in all of us 'Colonials' when we first met Louis. "You're just like Dad!" my sisters, Rosemary and Felicity and I all gasped on first sight of Louis. A tad shorter but the brothers were extraordinarly alike; particularly in disposition and humour. And twinkling eyes.

Oh yes, and the hands... the hands!  To make a point, they both had a way of waving them about ...the shape of the fingers ... whatever. Spooky!  I have seen a similar waving about of hands from John Dickens, son of Ernest George. Some genes never die.

Time was when Les and I were invited to dinner at Louis and Maureen's home in Henley - I actually think it was Goring - and Maureen was busy in the kitchen.  Louis indicated that Les and I sit down, which we did. 

Hardly having been seated for two minutes, Louis turned to me and said: 'Why don't you go into the kitchen and help Maureen?" It could've been my own father speaking! Took me back a few decades; typical Dickens stuff; a woman's place is in the kitchen!

(The current year is 2009; which I am noting just for later generations to observe whether things change in the future!) Had there been no progress that both my own father and his brother, although separated by Continents, had continued being programmed to think the same thing in this regard of a woman's status?

For all that, I liked him as a person. Just like all the brothers, he was interesting, sharp and entertaining.  He died just a week after my late husband, Les. Louis was 85 and Leslie only 62.                 


                                                Sir Louis Dickens

Louis duly went to Cranwell and started his meteoric rise up the ladder of his illustrious career. I remember conversations at the dinner table when Dad would announce, 'My brother has won the D.F.C'. then, likewise, the A.F.C. (We only had the A.N.C. -  the African National Congress). :-)

                                                   Louis - 1903

In 1939, Louis married Ena and they had two children; Jane Maureen and Mickey. I remember hearing that they lived in a lovely home, named 'Fairways', on the edge of a golf course. I think it was in Camberley.  

Maureen and I met on a number of occasions and went to France twice, I think. Both times were memorable; just loved Rocamadour, the Loire Valley, motoring freely. Maureen was/is an excellent driver which is a great big plus for a paranoid traveller like me!  Our fathers (who art in Heaven) would have raised the odd eyebrow.

Arthur and Roma were planning in 1952 to go and see Charles but alas they didn't make it. He died before they got there. They did see Louis and Ena and, I believe, they spent some happy reminiscing time together.

Then we heard about Louis' promotion to Air Commodore. That was it! Louis had really hit the big time. But more was to come when we heard he'd been knighted.

Dad was like a puppy with ten tails.He had the story published in the local newspaper, then I swear he visited almost every shop, home, school or wherever they'd let him in ... so that he could say 'This is my brother!' None so proud.....

Thank goodness for keeping notes. Louis, about two years before he died, wrote up the account of his dangerous flying achievements in the Air Force. In particular, the one known as:

 The Bridges of Maastricht - 12 May 1940

Sir Louis Walter Dickens KB DFC AFC DL was the commander of No.139 Squadron RAF in 1940. This account of the action at Maastricht is taken from the notes he made in 1986:

"No.139 Squadron was posted to France in Decembver 1939 and moved to Plivot early in 1940. No.114 Squadron, also equipped with Blenheims, was at Coude-Vraux, near Reims. As you know, the balloon went up on May 10th 1940 and all squadrons were on stand-by for operations against the Germans. For two days, we were allocated different targets and all were cancelled. On May 11th, No.114 Squadron was attacked on the ground and all eighteen of their aircraft were destroyed or badly damaged by German fighters.

                Painting of Blenheim bomber piloted by Louis Dickens
                                     Maastricht - May 10, 1940

On the night of May 11, we were given the target of the German advance at Maastricht-Tongres and after a night takeoff, we got to the enemy as dawn broke and ran into very strong fighter and ground opposition. We had no fighter support and as a result we were just shot out of the sky. I was extremely lucky to get back to base; my gunner was shot across the chest and later admitted to hospital at Chalons.

May 12 was a terrible day and I lost seven crews that morning. My ninth aircraft was late getting off the ground and never joined the formation. He saw what was happening, stayed at low level, bombed and departed untouched.

No.114 Squadron sent over six crews to collect six of my squadron aircraft and they operated them under orders from HQ. I heard that all six aircraft were then shot down in an operation against the Germans. For the next two weeks, we waited at our units and then moved to Cherbourg. We returned by ship to England on the first of June".

                                          Louis and Ena  - 1968

To end on a golfing note which would please Louis, he won a big championship when stationed in Egypt before the war. He shot par at St Andrews off the back tees, and was to give an exhibition in Canada during the war with Hogan and Snead.Hogan did not show up and Louis set the course record of 65 at East Berks where he was captain.

After retiring from the RAF with the rank of Air Commodore, Louis served as a magistrate at the Assizes and was later knighted by the Queen for his environmental work.

Peter Dickens  1910 - 1978




















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