Maurice Desmond Pickersgill
Date of birth: 1923
Date of death: 4.1.1945
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Family information: Son of John Clarence and Nora Winifred Pickersgill
Rank: Flying Officer
Service number: 164197
Maurice was the son of John Clarence and Nora Winifred Pickersgill. Aged only 21 he was serving as Flying Officer 164197 with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 103 Squadron.
On the internet there is a BBC website called WW2 The People’s War which has an extract from the West Riding Treasurer’s Department War Bulletin Number 2 which gives news of former colleagues who had volunteered. There is no date given on the bulletin.
“Maurice Pickersgill in the RAF and in Canada. Had a serious accident when flying solo and been in hospital for a long period. Now recuperating but sadly missing his nurse.”
This ties in with what was reported in the Wakefield Express of 11th March 1944:
“KIRKHAMGATE BOY’S SUCCESS – The parents of Maurice D Pickersgill (Mr and Mrs Pickersgill of Westfield Place) have received a cablegram from their son informing them that he has been granted a commission in the R.A.F. Maurice volunteered for service in December 1941, but he was not called up til July 1942. After a few months training in this country he was posted to Canada. Whilst there he passed all tests, thus gaining a commission after 11 months. Before joining the R.A.F. he was employed at the County Hall in the Treasurer’s Department. He received his education at Kirkhamgate Council School and Thornes House School. At Thornes House School he still holds the record for throwing a cricket ball 99 yards 10 inches. He was also a playing member of the Wakefield Cricket Club and showed great promise both as a bowler and a batsman. He is expected home from Canada in the next few weeks.”
The Wakefield Express reported on 17th June 1944 that Maurice had celebrated his 21st birthday in style.
“A tea and social, attended by about 70 persons, took place last Saturday in the Kirkhamgate Council School, to mark the coming of age of Pilot Officer Maurice D Pickersgill, only son of Mr and Mrs J C Pickersgill of Westfield Place, Kirkhamgate. P O Pickersgill had only a few hours leave, but he returned to his unit, taking with him the best wishes of his friends for the future.”
Sadly, only about two months later Maurice was to lose his mother. Her obituary appeared in the same paper on 2nd September:
“THE DEATH occurred yesterday week at her home, Westfield Place, Kirkhamgate, of Mrs Nora Pickersgill, wife of Mr J C Pickersgill……Mrs Pickersgill was a well-known personality and her death caused quite a sensation throughout the village. She leaves a widower and one son, Pilot Officer Pickersgill.”
In January 1945 the squadron was based at Elsham Wolds Lincolnshire and Maurice set off on 4th January as navigator in a Lancaster bomber leaving the station at 14:24 on a training flight. Tragically they flew into a snowstorm and at 14:40 it crashed into the Humber near Hull. Although an RAF plane and motor launch were sent to look for survivors only wreckage and papers were found.
Men lost were:-
George Widdecombe aged 32
Maurice Pickersgill aged 21
Henry Backway aged 21
Cyril Lloyd aged 19
They are all remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.
On 13th January the Wakefield Express published the following obituary:
“KIRKHAMGATE FLYING OFFICER – Mr J C Pickersgill of Westfield Place, Kirkhamgate, has been notified that his only son, Flying Officer Maurice D Pickersgill, is missing and it is feared that he has lost his life as the result of an aircraft accident. Flying Officer Pickersgill, 21 years of age, was employed in the West Riding Treasurer’s Department. He was commissioned in Canada last year and had taken part in operations over Germany. An old Thornes House School boy, he was a most promising young playing member of the Wakefield first team cricket eleven before volunteering for service with the Royal Air Force.”