This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph Obituaries Section in Jan 2018 the month after Ted's death.
The article is reproduced here with kind permission of the author Air Cdre Graham Pitchfork. www.grahampitchfork.com
Flight Lieutenant Ted Stocker, who has died aged 95, flew 102 operations with the heavy bomber force over occupied Europe. He received the DSO, the only flight engineer to be awarded the decoration.
By early October 1944 the Allied armies were established in Belgium but German coastal gun batteries dominated the approaches to the much-needed port of Antwerp. It was decided to bomb the sea walls on Walcheren Island and flood the island, most of which was reclaimed polder below sea level. Stocker was the flight engineer and bomb aimer in the master bomber’s crew (Group Captain Peter Cribb). It was his eighty-sixth bombing operation.
The crew were the first to arrive and over a long period remained over the target as Cribb directed eight waves of bombers, correcting the aiming point with flares and markers, dropped by Stocker, to widen the first breach. The sea poured in and the Germans were forced to abandon their positions.
Eight days later, Stocker volunteered to fly with the master bomber, who was again Group Captain Cribb, on a daylight attack against the oil refinery at Wanne Eickel in the heart of Ruhr. A well-placed target indicator aimed by Stocker opened the attack. The Lancaster circled the area for ten minutes during which time it came under almost continuous anti-aircraft fire and was hit several times. Stocker dropped more target markers for another successful attack and continued to give Cribb an accurate commentary of the bombing.
Stocker was awarded an immediate DSO. The citation concluded, ‘His conduct on this occasion [Wanne Eickel] was exemplary and in accordance with the high standard of courage which he has shown on a great many occasions in his long operational career’.
Edward Ernest Stocker was born on August 31, 1922 in Sheerness and educated at Sheerness Junior Technical School. He joined the RAF as an aircraft apprentice in January 1938 and trained as an aircraft engine fitter. With the outbreak of war in September 1938 the three-year course was truncated by eight months.
Stocker graduated in March 1940 and left for Boscombe Down, the home of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment, and where he gained experience on a wide variety of aircraft, many just coming into service with the RAF.
With the introduction into service of the four-engine heavy bombers, a new aircrew trade of flight engineer was created. Ex-apprentices were ideally qualified so Stocker volunteered and began his training, which he described as ‘minimal’ in May 1941. Of the initial group of twelve, he was one of only two to survive the war.
With just thirteen hours flying time he was posted to No. 35 Squadron, the first to be equipped with the new Handley Page four-engine bomber. Stocker flew his first operation on October 11 when the target was the Krupps works at Essen. His second operation ended with a crash landing after the aircraft ran out of fuel close to base.
Stocker transferred to a new Halifax squadron, No. 102, at the end of the year and over the next few months he attacked targets in France and Germany. In August 1942 he re-joined No. 35 Squadron, which had just been assigned to the new Pathfinder Force. He flew on one of the earliest sorties made by the force when his crew marked the target at Karlsruhe.
He flew throughout the so-called Battle of the Ruhr in 1943 and when he had completed forty-seven operations he was awarded the DFC.
After converting to the Lancaster, Stocker joined No. 7 Squadron, having also received instruction as a bomb aimer to add to his flight engineer duties. On February 19, 1944 he flew his first operation in the Lancaster when the target was Leipzig. He flew a further eight before transferring in April to a new Pathfinder squadron, No. 582 based at Little Staughton near Bedford.
Throughout the spring and summer of 1944 he attacked targets in France during the build-up to D-Day. His sixty-eighth sortie on June 10, 1944 was the first time he flew with the master bomber, a task that required the aircraft to remain over the target to direct the main force, sometimes as many as 700 bombers. Over the next few weeks he was to fly in the master bomber’s crew on numerous occasions including the attack on Walcheren Island on October 3.
Although overdue for a rest, Stocker continued to fly and on April 9, 1945 he attacked Kiel, his one hundredth operation, a record achieved by very few others. At the end of the month he was in the force that attacked Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’ at Berchtesgaden. His final operation was to drop food to the starving Dutch population during Operation Manna.
Stocker was assigned to ‘Tiger Force’, squadrons of RAF heavy bombers preparing to fly to the Pacific to bomb targets in Japan but the two atom bombs were dropped before the force could deploy.
After the war, Stocker was in the crew of one of three Lancasters that took Air Chie Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris on a tour to South America, returning via the Caribbean and the United States. He later flew with Transport Command and in August 1948 began training as a pilot. On completion he flew modified Lancasters in Coastal Command and at the end of 1951 went to the USA to convert to Lockheed Neptune maritime aircraft. He piloted one of the first two back to the UK to form No. 217 Squadron. His final tour in the RAF was as adjutant to No. 652 Air Observation Squadron flying Austers in Germany.
Increasing deafness brought his remarkable career in the RAF to an end in September 1956 when he left to forge a successful civilian career, initially in aeronautical engineering and then in the petro-chemical industry. He finally retired in 1989.
He was a founder member of the Little Staughton Pathfinder Association, attended squadron reunions and maintained his links with the Halton Aircraft Apprentice Association. His war memoirs ‘A Pathfinder’s War’ were published in 2009.
Ted Stocker died on December 8. He married Stella Symonds in 1943 who died. His second wife Pat predeceased him. Three sons and two daughters from his first marriage survive him.