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[Home] [Profiles 103 Sqn A to M] [Ken Bickers and crew 103 Sqn]

S/L Kenneth H Bickers DFC RAFVR and crews - 103 Squadron - RAF Elsham Wolds - 1943 and 1944.

Crashed on Return - 9/10th April 1943 - Avro Lancaster III - ED724 - Op Duisberg

and

Failed to Return - 24/25th March 1944 - Avro Lancaster III - ME665 - Op Berlin.

103 Squadron Bickers

Two things spring to mind when thinking of Ken Bickers ( pictured above )

Firstly he completed his Flight Training at the No 1 British Flying Training School at Terrell Texas along with 4 other pilots with Elsham Wolds connections.

Bertie Marks 576 Sqn

Joe Moss 103 Sqn

Charles Pearton 103 Sqn

John Warner 103 Sqn

There are quite possibly others of which I have no details.

Marks, Moss and Pearton were killed during their first tours and Warner was very badly injured in a crash at Elsham Wolds in Feb 1944 and never flew again. All four are featured on my 103 Squadron or 576 Squadron websites.

Secondly Bickers was one of four prominent 103 Squadron captains who completed their first tours with 103 Squadron in 42 or 43 and who were killed shortly after starting their second tours with the same Squadron in late 43 or early 44. The other three are:-

John “Jake“ Kennard DFC

Richard “Taffy” Pugh DFM

Kenneth Berry DFM.

The loss of young men of this calibre, fighting spirit and level of experience must have been a serious blow to the Squadron during the hard winter of 43/44 as they were the leaders who set the example to the less experienced crews.

The only pilots who completed more than one tour, all with 103 Sqn, were William R Crich DFM (2 tours) and Florent Van Rolleghem DSO DFC (3 tours). Both survived the war.

Ken Bickers hailed from Southampton and joined the Royal Artillery in 1940. He volunteered for the RAF in 1941 and completed his pilot training at Terrell Texas. He joined 103 Squadron with his crew from 1656 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme on the 1st February 1943

First crew

F/O K G Bickers RAFVR

P/O C J Plummer RAFVR

P/O S W Peglar RAFVR

Sgt A G Holmes RAFVR

Sgt A E Fullick RAFVR

Sgt G E Shaw RAFVR Wounded 22/23 March 43 and replaced by Sgt D P Oliver

Sgt R H Howell RAFVR Killed 22/23 March 43 and replaced by Sgt N Tombs

Richard Herbert Howell is buried at Watton St Mary Churchyard Norfolk. He was 35 years which is well above average for aircrew.

103 Squadron D P Oliver collects his parachute and safety gear.

Above - Sgt D P Oliver is pictured above on the extreme left collecting his parachute, life jacket etc from the Safety Equipment Section at Elsham Wolds. The other airman 2nd left may be a member of Bickers crew but it is impossible to say

First tour

Bickers does not appear to have flown a “Second Dickie” trip with an experienced crew. He commenced operations on the night of the 7/8th February 1943 to a Lorient which is of course a French target so considered rather less demanding than the long |German trips. The crew completed their tour in less than four months

07-Feb-43 - Lorient - Lancaster - W4318 - F/O KG Bickers

16-Feb-43 - Lorient - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

18-Feb-43 - Wilhelmshaven - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

21-Feb-43 - Bremen - Lancaster - W4860 - F/O KG Bickers

25-Feb-43 - Nuremberg - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

26-Feb-43 - Cologne - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

28-Feb-43 - St Nazaire - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

01-Mar-43 - Berlin - Lancaster - W4788 - F/O KG Bickers

03-Mar-43 - Hamburg - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

05-Mar-43 - Essen - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

08-Mar-43 - Nuremberg - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

09-Mar-43 - Munich - Lancaster - W4364 - F/O KG Bickers

22-Mar-43 - St Nazaire - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers - Combat. Attacked by night fighters which were driven off.

26-Mar-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

27-Mar-43 - Berlin - Lancaster - W4337 - F/O KG Bickers

29-Mar-43 - Berlin - Lancaster - ED626 - F/L KG Bickers

03-Apr-43 - Essen - Lancaster - W4337 - F/L KG Bickers

04-Apr-43 - Kiel - Lancaster - W4845 - F/L KG Bickers

08-Apr-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - W4337 - F/L KG Bickers

09-Apr-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - ED724 - F/L KG Bickers - Crash landed on return. Combat.  Rear gunner, Sgt R H Howell RAFVR killed - See below, mid upper gunner badly wounded. Turret set on fire. Hydraulics, Wireless transmitter, Radio transmitter, Gee, Air speed indicator Trimmers unserviceable. Petrol tank holed. Crash landed at Bodney

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ED724 reportedly attacked on its way home by Feldwebel Heinz Vinke of the 11./NJG 1, flying a Bf 110 G-4. Aircraft damaged beyond repair. Rear Gunner killed

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18-Apr-43 - La Spezia - Lancaster - ED731 – F/L KG Bickers

04-May-43 - Dortmund - Lancaster - W4845 - F/L KG Bickers

12-May-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - ED913 - F/L KG Bickers

13-May-43 - Bochum - Lancaster - ED913 F/L KG Bickers - ER - Rear turret U/S.

23-May-43 - Dortmund - Lancaster - ED913 - F/L KG Bickers

25-May-43 - Dusseldorf - Lancaster - ED913 - F/L KG Bickers - Undertook Sq reconnaissance over target

27-May-43 - Essen - Lancaster - ED913 - F/L KG Bickers

29-May-43 - Wuppertal - Lancaster - ED913 - F/L KG Bickers

Ken Bickers was awarded an immediate DFC following the operation on the night of the 9/10th April 1943 to Duisburg. Citation below :-

‘One night in April 1943, Flight Lieutenant Bickers captained an aircraft detailed to attach Duisburg. During the homeward flight , whilst over enemy territory, the aircraft was attacked by an enemy fighter. The first burst of fire from the attacker killed the rear gunner, severely wounded the mid-upper gunner and set the rear turret on fire. For twenty minutes the enemy aircraft continued its attacks and only the skilful evading tactics employed by Flight Lieutenant Bickers prevented the bomber from being shot down. The elevator trimming gear was put out of action, the engine controls were damaged, the wireless apparatus and the hydraulic system were rendered unserviceable. Many instruments were destroyed while one of the port petrol tanks was pierced , causing its contents to leak away. In spite of the tremendous odds, Flight Lieutenant Bickers, displaying superb airmanship, flew the badly damaged aircraft to an airfield in this country where he effected a successful crash landing. In the face of a most perilous situation this officer displayed courage, skill and fortitude of a high order.’

Ken Bickers returned to 103 Sqn on the 1st March 1944 from 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at Sandtoft. His new crew included former navigator F/O Cyril John Plummer DFC They were  shot down and killed on the 3rd op of their second tour.

Second Tour.

15-Mar-44 - Stuttgart - Lancaster - ME665 – S/L KG Bickers

22-Mar-44 - Frankfurt - Lancaster - ME665 – S/L KG Bickers

24-Mar-44 - Berlin - Lancaster - ME665 - S/L KG Bickers - FTR - Crashed at Luckenwalde, Germany.

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Sgt Richard Herbert Howell RAFVR – Air Gunner – 35 – 103 Sqn - Son of Reginald Richard and Jenny Howell of New Malden, Surrey; husband of Alice Maud Howell, of New Malden – Watton St Mary Churchyard, Norfolk.

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S/L Kenneth George Bickers DFC RAFVR – Pilot - 21 – 103 Sqn - Son of James and Emily G. A. Bickers, of Bitterne Park, Hampshire - Runnymede Memorial

F/S Joseph Wadsworth RAFVR – Flight Engineer - 30 - Son of Joseph and Alice Wadsworth; husband of Vera Wadsworth, of Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire. Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire - Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany.

F/O Cyril John Plummer DFC RAFVR - 22 – 103 Sqn - Son of John Oswald Plummer and Sarah Ann Plummer, of Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham - Runnymede Memorial.

F/S Dennis Cannon RAFVR – Air Gunner – 103 Sqn - Son of William Henry and Ellen Louise Cannon, of Enfield, Middlesex - Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery Germany.

F/O Peter Anthony Charles Bell RAFVR - 23 – 103 Sqn - Son of Christy Anthony and Joan Winifred Bell, of Grantham, Lincolnshire - Runnymede Memorial

F/S Leonard John Comer RAFVR - 29 – 103 Sqn - Son of Reginald John and Ida Winifred Comer, of Bristol - Runnymede Memorial

F/O Norman Tombs RAFVR – Air Gunner – 103 Sqn - Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany.

Ken Bickers has no known grave and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. However 3 of his crew are buried in the Berlin 39-45 War Cemetery and it is quite possible that the rest of this crew are interred in the same cemetery and marked as Known Unto God. There are nearly 400 Unknowns in that cemetery.

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24-Mar-44 - Berlin

This was the “Night of the Strong Winds“. There is an article I wrote about it in the Articles and Misc Section here

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Lancaster – ED724

This machine was lost on its 6th. See below :-

27-Mar-43 – Berlin – Lancaster – ED724 – P/O HF Ewer RCAF

29-Mar-43 – Berlin – Lancaster – ED724 – P/O HF Ewer RCAF

03-Apr-43 – Essen – Lancaster – ED724 – Sgt JOB Mooney RNZAF

04-Apr-43 – Kiel – Lancaster – ED724 – Sgt JOB Mooney RNZAF - Combat with twin engined night fighter. No claim.

09-Apr-43 - Duisburg - Lancaster - ED724 - F/L KG Bickers - Crash landed on return. Combat.  Rear gunner, Sgt R H Howell RAFVR killed., mid upper gunner badly wounded. Turret set on fire. Hydraulics, Wireless transmitter, Radio transmitter, Gee, Air speed indicator Trimmers unserviceable. Petrol tank holed. Crash landed at Bodney

Lancaster – ME665

This machine was lost on its 3rd operation all with the Bickers crew

15-Mar-44 – Stuttgart – Lancaster – ME665 – S/L KG Bickers

22-Mar-44 – Frankfurt – Lancaster – ME665 – S/L KG Bickers

24-Mar-44 – Berlin – Lancaster – ME665 – S/L KG Bickers – FTR - Crashed at Luckenwalde, Germany.

Compiled by David Fell with photos from my own archive.

 

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* 1st December 2023 - Photos of F/L Jacob t'Hart DFC and bar

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1st August 2023 - Numerous additions and updates throughout the site

Also of local RAF Bomber Command interest are the

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