The Airmen's Stories - P/O J L Bickerdike
John Laurance Bickerdike, the son of a policeman, was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 11th 1919. He was educated in Auckland at King's Preparatory School and then King's College. He was an outstanding athlete.
Bickerdike got a job in Christchurch as a radio announcer. He was accepted for an RNZAF short service commission in June 1939 and did his flying training at Wigram. He sailed for England in early March 1940 and at the end of April was posted to No 1 Fighter Pilot Unit at Meir, after which he converted to Hurricanes at 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge and joined 85 Squadron at Debden on May 25th.
On July 12th a section of the squadron was ordered off to help protect convoy 'Booty' against an approaching raid by a large force of Do17’s and He111’s. The section intercepted the bombers before they could disperse. In his first encounter with the Luftwaffe Bickerdike attacked one and sent it down in flames into the sea.
On July 22nd 1940 he was killed when he crashed near Debden during an aerobatic exercise. He is buried in Wimbish Parish Church
Cemetery, near Saffron Walden, Essex.