The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J T Pickford
James Thomas Pickford, of Luton, was born on 1st September 1917 and joined the RAFVR in February 1939 as an Airman u/t WOp/AG. He had gunnery instruction at Store Street, Westminster and flew in Harts and Hinds at Gravesend on Sundays.
Mobilised on 1st September 1939, Pickford was posted to 604 Squadron at North Weald. He went to Evanton on 6th November and after a month long course he passed out as an LAC Air Gunner and returned to 604. He was entitled to wear the new Air Gunner badge from 29th February 1940.
On 10th May 1940 the squadron provided an escort for Blenheims that had been detailed to bomb German transport aircraft on the beach at Wassenaar, Holland.
After the bombing Pickford's pilot, P/O IKS Joll, decided to make a low-level strafe of the beach. The port propeller came off, either shot off by ground fire or by striking the ground. The Blenheim crash-landed on the beach but did not catch fire and the two men were not badly hurt.
With the help of Dutch civilians they made their way to Amsterdam and were able to embark on the ss Dotterel, which evacuated the Polish, British and French consular staff as well as civilians and press correspondents on 13th May.
In late December 1940 Pickford was posted to 207 Squadron at Waddington, equipped with Manchesters and later Lancasters.
He did two tours, flying 53 operations and was awarded the DFM (gazetted 29th December 1942) as Flight Sergeant.
Commissioned from Warrant Officer in February 1944, Pickford was released from the RAF on 23rd June 1946 as a Flying Officer.
He died in 1992.