Tag Archives: PE Pickard

Hedgecoe and Bamford : the Final Chapter

Last year, on February 7th, I published a post called “Hedgecoe and Bamford : Death in the Night”.

The post was about two young heroes of 151 Squadron who were flying a Mosquito night fighter of No. 85 Squadron over Kent, during the night of March 24th-25th 1944. The pilot was Flying Officer Edward Richard Hedgecoe (34) and the radar operator was Flight Lieutenant Norman Llewellyn Bamford (25). They were both experienced marksmen, with Hedgecoe having claimed eight victims and Bamford taking part in the destruction of ten enemy machines:

I described the rather quirky events of that night when they found an apparent Junkers Ju 188,

The rather infrequently encountered German aircraft was weaving violently from side to side. They approached to within a hundred yards and then let it have a burst of cannon fire. What happened next is in my blog post from February 7th 2018.

The rest of my blog post then concerned the eventual deaths of Messrs Hedgecoe and Bamford, the final fate of whom I could merely make a best guess at. They perished on January 1st 1945 but I quite simply did not know the circumstances.

I was delighted, therefore, some nineteen months later, to receive a comment about the eventual fate of the two men. The comment came from Denis Sharp.

Denis provided a very long and detailed account of the two airmen, so good in fact that I thought it ought to be better showcased than the ordinary run-of-the-mill comment.

Please be aware therefore, that these are not my words but a recent reply to an old blog post of mine from Denis Sharp:

“The loss of this aircraft from former RAF Hunsdon is well known to myself, as an historian for the airfield I can give you this small additional piece of the story.
In its heyday it was a Mosquito night fighter station, many famous squadrons were based here from 1941 to 1945, and one of the RAF’s most famous low level attacks took place from this deserted abandoned airfield. This was the low level attack on the German run prison at Amiens in France in February 1944, one of the most charismatic airmen of that period, Group Captain P.E Pickard lost his life along with his navigator Flt Lt Alan Broadley on that raid, also lost was Flt Lt Dick Sampson, the navigator from a second aircraft that was also bought down.

Let’s go back over seventy years to the 31st of December 1944, two replacement Mosquito aircrew reported for duty with 151 Squadron at this airfield. Squadron Leader Edward Hedgecoe DFC and Bar, and his Navigator Flying Officer Norman Llewellyn Bamford DFC and Bar. Both were both posted in from the Fighter Interception Unit where they had been resting from operational combat sorties. At the FIU they had helped train inexperienced night fighter aircrew as well as developing tactics and equipment. They were sent to join 151 Squadron at Hunsdon as replacements, both were both very experienced airmen who had each earned the DFC and Bar in combat prior to joining the FIU from 85 Squadron some months earlier.

On New Year’s Day, Monday the 1st January 1945, Squadron Leader Hedgecoe and Flying Officer Bamford found themselves on the duty roster for operations that night, a mere two days after arriving at Hunsdon. 151 Squadron were a Mosquito night fighter squadron and regularly flew patrols over German held territory on the continent in an effort to shoot down German night bombers and Luftwaffe night fighters that were taking a toll of RAF heavy bombers.

Sometime in the early afternoon on the 1st January 1945, the pair climbed into their Mosquito, a Mk30 NF bearing the serial number NT253, to carry out a routine air test prior to further rest before flying later that night. The test was to establish if all the aircraft’s systems were working correctly, after the flight the acceptance form ‘700’ would be signed by the pilot and the aircraft would be then fit for operations, the fuel tanks would be topped off and all would be ready for the pair to use when their allotted time for flight arrived later that night.

The weather that day was not that good but flying had been cleared and aircraft had been allotted to cover various Night fighter and Intruder operations to Luftwaffe airfields on the Continent. The wind was from the south west and Hedgecoe and Bamford set off on the secondary runway for their twenty minute test flight that involved a circuit or two of the airfield before making their approach to the northern end of the same runway. While on this approach and at a height of about 300ft, the Mosquito stalled a wing, a known trait of the aircraft at low airspeed, and spun into the ground just 450 yards short of the concrete runway. Being fully loaded with fuel and made of wood, the Mosquito burned fiercely. Both Squadron Leader Hedgecoe and Flying Officer Bamford died in the wreckage.”

So now, thanks to Denis Sharp, we know the last, sad, part of the story.

If you want to hear more from Denis, here is the link to his website .

Here’s a Mosquito crash  site today:

 

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