Richard Webb SAMPSON
Known as Dick, or Sammy

Serial Number: NZ401465
RNZAF Trade: Air Gunner, then Navigator
Date of Enlistment:June 1940
Rank Achieved: Flight Lieutenant
Flying Hours: 608 hours
Operational Sorties: 74 Ops

Date of Birth: 21st of December 1905, at Dannevirke
Personal Details: Dick was the son of Mr Percy Wallace Sampson and Jeannie Palmer Sampson, of Te Miro, Cambridge, and the brother of Henry Sampson who was also in the RNZAF and Edward Sampson. He had been educated at Dannevirke School, where he gained his Proficiency Certificate.

Dick was a very sporty person, but in particular he enjoyed polo, hunting, tennis, fishing and swimming. He became a well-known and popular farmer at Te Miro, probably on his parents' property, but by the time he applied for service in the RNZAF, in January 1940, he was performing general farm duties for stock agents Newton King Ltd, of Hamilton. He was a member of the Auckland Aero Club and had begun training as a pilot before the war.

Dick Sampson understated his age on enlistment in 1940 by three years so he could qualify for training as aircrew, giving his year of birth as 1908.

Service Details: Dick enlisted on the 4th of June 1940 at RNZAF Station Levin's Ground Training School. On the 29th of June he proceeded to No. 1 Air Observer School at RNZAF Ohakea, to begin training as an Air Gunner. On the 23rd of August 1940 he completed the course and was awarded his Air Observer's badge, or brevet. He was also promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

On the 14th of September 1940, he embarked on the 'Tamaroa' from Wellington, setting sail for the United Kingdom.

He arrived in England on the 3rd of November 1940 and reported to the Royal Air Force Depot at Uxbridge, Middlesex. He remained there on attachment till the 15th of November, when he was posted to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School at Evanton, Ross-shire.

On the 28th of December 1940 he proceeded to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum, in Wiltshire to undergo a course. This was completed on the 10th of January 1941, and he was posted to No. 151 Squadron at Wittering, Northamptonshire, where he commenced operational duties.

He flew on four night patrols with the squadron as an Air Gunner, but then his operational duties were interrupted by his attachment to a gunnery leader's course at the Central Gunnery School, Warmwell, Dorsetshire. When this concluded he returned to No. 151 Sqn and resumed ops. He then took part in a further sixty operational patrols with the squadron. These were mostly armed patrols, including twelve convoy patrols.

Whilst a gunner he was credited with shooting down a German bomber after a running battle over the Thames Estuary on the 10th of May 1941. The bomber eventually crashed into the ground near Gravesend His total score as gunner was he was credited with destroying one Heinkel and one Junkers and damaging a further Junkers bomber.

During his time with the squadron he was commissioned and promoted to the rank of Pilot Officer on the 31st July 1941. His tour was completed after the 64 ops, and he was posted on the 18th of July 1942 to No. 6 Air Observer's School, at Staverton, Gloucestershire, to undergo a course in air navigation. This was probably a remuster at his own request.

Weeks later, during the course, he rose in rank again to Flying Officer, on the 31st July 1942. He completed the course and was posted on the 20th of October 1942 to No. 62 Operational Training Unit, at Usworth, in County Durham.

On the 15th of November 1942 he returned to No. 151 Squadron, who were still at Wittering, but this time he took on the duties as Navigator. He flew a further four ops with the squadron , including an armed patrol, two shipping strikes in the Bay of Biscay and a low level attack on a power station in Plancoet in France. On the 31st July 1943 he became a Flight Lieutenant.

Then Dick was posted on the 8th of October 1943 to Headquarters, No. 2 Group, at Wallingford, Berkshire for navigational duties. he remained in this job till the 10th of January 1944, when he returned to ops with No. 464 Squadron at Feltwell, Norfolk. Here, he was navigator in a Mosquito bomber, and carried out a further six ops, including attacks on Allerey and Pommereval in France and Munster in Germany, bringing his total operational flights to 74.

Details of Death: Richard Sampson sadly died while taking part in one of the most daring and well-known raids of the war. This raid was made on Amiens Prison in France, with the intention of breaching the prison's walls.

For a long time it was said the raid was carried out to free the numerous resistance partisans whom the Germans were holding there, many of whom were scheduled for early execution.These resistance workers were said toinclud some who were considered vital for the success of the upcoming D-Day landings at Normandy, so this bold operation was devised. Recent research suggests this excuse to be a cover up for another operation entirely, however low level daylight attack was certainly made on Amiens Prison by de Havilland Mosquito bombers from No. 464 Squadron RAAF, No. 487 (NZ) Squadron and No. 21 Squadron RAF. They were accompanied by Hawker Typhoon fighters of No. 198 Squadron as their fighter cover.

The date was Friday the 18th of February, 1944. Dick and his pilot, Squadron Leader Ian McRitchie, RAF, took off at 10:50hrs from RAF Hunsdon, Hertfordshire in de Havilland Mosquito FB.VI (coded MM404/T) from No 464 Squadron, RAAF.

Their purpose was to be part of the second wave of the attack. The raid was successfully carried out at noon. 258 of the over 700 prisoners got away.

Shortly after leaving the target area, MM404 was hit in the cockpit by flak. Richard Sampson was killed outright. The pilot was wounded and did a high speed belly landing in a snow covered field near Freneuville (Fresneville?), to be taken prisoner. Dick was aged 38

Buried at: Dick Sampson was buried at Poix-de-la-Somme 25km SW of Amiens.

Connection with Cambridge: Richard had farmed in the Cambridge district before joining the RNZAF

Thanks To: The Cambridge Museum, and Errol Martyn for supplying information on Dick Sampson. Also details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn. See more details on these highly recommended books here. Thanks also to Dick Sampson niece, Jenny Boon, for her assistance.

Note: In February 2014 the 70th Anniversary of the Amiens Prison raid, in which Dick was killed, was marked with commemorative events here in Cambridge, New Zealand; at RAF Hunsdon in England, and at Amiens in France. These were all recorded and edited together in a special as part of the Wings Over New Zealand Show podcast, which you can listen to and download here:


Download Episode 62 - The Amiens Prison Raid 70th Anniverary Special

By the way the music clips in this episode are I Vow To Thee My Country by Gustav Holst, and Fernleaf Headstones by Dwayne Bloomfield and played by the New Zealand Army Band




Flight Lieutenant Richard Webb Sampson
Photo via Jenny Boon

Flight Lieutenant Dick Sampson
Photo via Jenny Boon

Flight Lieutenant Dick Sampson, with his mother Jeannie Sampson and his
niece Jenny
Photo via Jenny Boon

Flight Lieutenant Dick Sampson with his mother, his niece Jenny and Marj
Photo via Jenny Boon

Flight Lieutenant Dick Sampson with Ann McRitchie
Photo via Jenny Boon

Flight Lieutenant Dick Sampson
Photo via Jenny Boon

The Waikato Hunt racing at Cambridge racecourse in 1937. Dick Sampson is one of the riders.
Photo via Jenny Boon


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