Images and information courtesy of Julie.
Born: 1922, Leeds, Yorkshire.
Died on or since: 20th December 1943; age 21; Shot down by a night fighter.
Residence: 58, Sherrington Road, Ipswich.
Rank: Squadron Leader; Service Number: 64287.
Regiment: Royal Air Force, 77 Squadron.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards: — Distinguished Flying Cross.
Flying Officer Herbert Frank BICKERDIKE (64287), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 462 Squadron. The above awards are for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations.
Gazetted – 19th January 1943.
Joint Grave V.E.4-5.
Original wooden cross.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Clifford & Hilda Bickerdike, of Ipswich.
Father: Clifford Bickerdike, born January 1891, Rothwell, Yorkshire.
Mother: Hilda Bickerdike (nee Scotcher), born September 1887, Combs, Suffolk.
Cousin to FRANK ROBERT SCOTCHER.
Herbert attended Ipswich School.
Herbert was 4 years old, when he travelled 2nd Class on board ‘Avon’ of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company – South American Service. He travelled with his 37 year old mother, Hilda, and his 5 year old brother, Denys Clifford Bickerdike (born São Paulo, Brazil). They had departed from the Port of Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil and arrived at the Port of Southampton, on the 8th September 1925. The family were to visit Hilda’s family at Denny Farm, Combs, Suffolk. Their permanent residence was Brazil.
Herbert was 5 years old, when he travelled 2nd Class on board the ‘Andes’ of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. He travelled with his 40 year old mother, Hilda, and his 7 year old brother, Denys. They had embarked at the Port of Southampton, on the 18th November 1927, and were bound for Bahia, Brazil. The family had stayed in the Uk at 52, Newburgh Crescent, Cape Road, Warwick.
Herbert was 7 years old, when he travelled 2nd Class on board the ‘Andes’ of the New Zealand Shipping Company Ltd. He travelled with his 41 year old mother, Hilda, and his 9 year old brother, Denys. They had departed from the Port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The family arrived on the 1st October 1929, at the Port of Southampton.
Herbert’s father, Clifford Bickerdike, an Auditor in Commerce, travelled many times from Brazil to the UK.
Probate to Hilda Bickerdike – wife of Clifford Bickerdike.
20th December 1943
Aircraft: Halifax V; serial number: LL125; code: KN-K; based at R.A.F. Elvington; operation: Frankfurt. The aircraft took off at 16:30hrs and successfully dropped their bombs on Frankfurt. The aircraft was returning to England and did not notice a Me-110 approach. The first hit to claim his 4th victory came at 20:43hrs, from Oberleutnant Wilhelm Henseler of 4/NJG1 hit the starboard engine, which immediately caught fire. Bickie told the crew that he would have to dive to try to extinguish the fire. The manoeuvre failed and the fire began spreading to the fuel tanks. Bickie gave the order to abandon the aircraft. LL125 crashed in flames near the old Vivier between Fronville and Melreux, Namur. 5 of the crew were killed, 2 survived.
Robert William Pendergrest; Pilot Officer/ Navigator; age: 20; R.A.F.V.R.
Ronald Frederick Walter; Sergeant/ Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; age 21; R.A.F.V.R.
William Atkinson Cockburn; Sergeant/Air Gunner; age 23; R.A.F.V.R.
Gordon Leonard Hills; Flying Officer/ Air Gunner; age 20; R.A.F.V.R.
Terence Frank Bolter; Flying Officer/Air Bomber; age 21.
‘Terry’ Terence Frank Bolter, successfully parachuted from the aircraft and could see the aircraft in flames, disintegrating before crashing. With his ability to speak French he was able to find help with Belgium patriots and joined the escape chain of the ‘Comet Line’ through Belgium, France, Spain and Gibraltar. From where he flew back to England, arriving on the 24th June 1944, Terry landed at Whitchurch, Bristol. The ‘message’ was sent to his helpers that ‘The red & blue tie has arrived.’ Terry has given interviews, which can be found on-line, about his escape and the kindness and help shown to him. In 1990, he returned to Belgium to meet some of his Belgium helpers.
Frank Shaw survived the crash. He was arrested on the 6th July 1944, near Dinant. On the 24th July 1944, he was sent to Stalag Luft 1 in Barth. Prisoner Number: 4709. Released in May 1945, and repatriated to England, he remained in the R.A.F.V.R. until relinquishing his commission in February 1954. (read his story below)
A family note:
HERBERT FRANK BICKERDIKE
This was my husband’s father’s brother (i.e Uncle who he never met). We had never heard any of this or the story of how he died – his brother was unable to talk about it and we are not sure if he ever knew all of these details. We knew he had a grave at the Hotton War Cemetery and had been thinking recently of visiting it. I cried when I read this. I had no idea there were survivors of the crash or that he had been the squadron leader. We are so proud of him. And sad that we never met. I also know now that he was known as ‘Bickie’. Rest in peace Bickie x
Uncovered in the loft, a trunk with his initials, medals and paperwork sent back to his parents.
Herbert is also remembered on the Ipswich School Chapel war memorial.
Frank Galsworthy Shaw
Flying Officer R.A.F.V.R. Survived the crash aged 34
Images and information courtesy of John Shaw
When the bail out order came he went to the escape hatch – which had been opened. One of the crew was stood not knowing what to do with the hatch. This may have cost him his life. The aircraft went into a spin. Father said he was trapped in the hole due to g-force, but finally got out. He landed in a tree, which cut his legs very deeply – the scars went with him to his grave. Nuns found him and tended his wounds. How long he stayed with them, I do not know, but they gave him a lot of crosses – St. Christopher’s etc. Then he was picked up by the Maquis.
Father stayed on a farm and helped with the work. I do know he was asked to speak to a RAF aircrew man who had been shot down – they were frightened he was a German plant. The man claimed he was from Yorkshire, but did not know much about the area. Father said these guys do not mess about so tell the truth. I do not know if he survived the war.
One German in the Camp said on reception:-
“I expect you to act as the officer you are, and the gentleman you are suppose to be. Welcome to Stalag Luft 1.”
When the camp was liberated in 1945, Father had found all his papers and kept them.
They were flown home in a B17, and he had a fortnight leave then back to work. The Squadron had moved from Elvington to Full Sutton.
Dear friend Frank,
Excuse my long silence as I thought that Josephine had given my news.
You have, without doubt, learnt that I was taken by the Germans in the summer, the 12th August 1944 until the 26th May last. I weighed about (approx.) 194 lbs. when I left and when I returned, I was (approx.) 78 lbs! This is what you would call low?
We were happy to learn that you were returned well to your people. We hope that you will soon forget the terrible moments that passed during the War, and also hope that we may have the pleasure of us meeting again in the very near future.
I was telling you that we had spent the summer with those horrible Germans, whom I never want to meet again. To try to get me to arrange to confess, and for me to denounce my friends, they put my hands in boiling oil. They also put me in some baths of ammonia! And that is true for if it had not been for statements obtained, the results for the Germans could not be determined.
We have had a lot of suffering, a lot of ours did not come back, unfortunately, after all the tortures but we have to thank all our mighty Allies, all you and all our friends for a complete Victory.
We hope that all your family are in the best of health and hope that you will give us some further news shortly. In the next letter, I will send you a photo.
At the moment, I am walking with difficulty and I will not be really well again after my tough hardships.
We wait accordingly for your good news and think of you, dear friend Frank, with our best thoughts.
117, Avenue des Acacias,
91, rue Henri Lemaitre
MINISTERE DE LA RECONSTRUCTION
By inquiring about the behaviour of Mrs Rops from METTET, Château deThozée, in Belgium during the 2d. World War, I heard you were helped by Mrs Rops.
Will you answer for me the following questions?
When were you helped by Mrs Rops and how? How long time have you remained by her? Afterwards what did you do?
Expecting a answer from you, I remain, dear sir,
Commissaire de l‘État
Chaussie de Rochefort
30 July 1945.
Excuse me for writing again in French to you, I have never tried to write in English, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to do so.
By your card of the 22/1/1945, you said that your son had been a prisoner of the Germans in the summer of July 1944. O was certain that he had returned to England where, in the course of another more recent raid on the Germans, he was taken prisoner.
With regard to my wife taken prisoner since 25/3/44, she died as a result of a bombardment at the Camp of Monthausen, in Austria on the 21/3/45. This is a very sorrowful thing, especially for my 2 dear children.
Oh, those nasty Germans, never will they pay enough for what they have done to people.
In the hope of you writing, I beg you to accept, dear Madam, my respectful compliments.
A family note: Father left the RAF in 1948.
The last time he flew was in 1983, and I took him over his old airfields – Elvington – Church Fenton. He thought my aircraft was complicated, but it was simple compared to a Halifax – no GPs – Vor etc.