The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. L C Bicknell
Leslie Charles Bicknell was born on 9th April 1913 in Stockton, Warwickshire and was educated at Stockton School and Leamington College.
He joined the RAF in January 1930 as an Apprentice. He signed an engagement for 12 years on 9th April 1931, his 18th birthday.
Bicknell entered the RAF College Cranwell on a cadetship in January 1933. He graduated 15th December 1934 with a permanent commission and joined 29 Squadron at North Weald on the same day.
He was posted to 65 Squadron at Hornchurch on 30th December 1936 as a Flight Commander.
On 11th February 1938 three Gladiators from 65 Squadron were aloft in the vicinity of North Weald, having taken off from their base in Hornchurch. Acting F/Lt. LC Bicknell was in K7942, P/O PR Austin-Sparks in seven month old K8002 and P/O AH Boyd in another machine
They came upon Acting P/O J Thompson flying in a locally based 151 Squadron machine and decided to 'bounce' him with a series of mock attacks. Such manoeuvres near an airfield were forbidden.
K8002 hit Bicknell's aircraft from behind, it is thought due mainly to obscured vision caused by oil thrown up by the engine coating the windscreen. Bicknell, the senior pilot, managed to bale out safely but P/O Austin-Sparks died in his aircraft. He had served 13 months in the RAF, three of them at Hornchurch.
Bicknell was brought before a Court Martial and was reprimanded.
He then went to the School of Photography at Farnborough on 1st January 1939 as a supernumerary.
He joined 23 Squadron at Wittering from HQ 6 Group on 20th January 1940 and assumed command on the 23rd. He held the appointment until 12th August 1940 when he was posted away to Fighter Sector Wick for Ops Room duties.
Bicknell later graduated from the RAF Staff College. He retired from the RAF on 20th June 1949 as a Wing Commander, retaining the rank of Group Captain.
He later went to live in South Africa and died there in 1991.