On this St Andrew’s Day we commemorate the shipmates from Scotland who died in service with Coastal Forces
Lest we forget
The 2nd December sees the anniversary of an air raid on the Port of Bari, Italy, in which a convoy of some 19 ships which had entered an already congested harbour became an easy target for the German Air Force. Sixteen ships and 38,000 tons of cargo were destroyed with an estimated 1,000 casualties, many of whom were the victims of mustard gas poisoning, released from one of the ships sunk during the raid.
Listen to an eyewitness account of the Bari Raid given by Peter Bickmore to the BBC and recorded as part of their Witness series for broadcast on the BBC World Service.
Read more about the Bari Raid
Peter Thomas Frank Bickmore was born to Alfred and Ellen Bickmore in Leyton, East London on 14 September, 1924. He entered the Royal Navy and HMS Collingwood as an eighteen year old conscript in December 1942, after which he was selected to train as a Radio Detection Finder (RDF) operator at HMS Valkyre on the Isle of Man.
Peter was given a foreign posting with Coastal Forces, and served on MTB 243 of the 24th MTB Flotilla, which was one of the first Coastal Forces units to establish a base on the island of Vis.
Peter was in the port of Bari on 2 December, 1943, when a heavy German air raid led to liquid mustard gas being released into the harbour, causing many deaths and injuries, including to Peter himself. He was awarded the BEM for rescue work conducted on that night.
His next posting was to MGB 647 which participated in operations around the Greek islands throughout September 1944, which culminated in the liberation of Athens a month later. He spent several more months on operations and patrols around Vis and the Planinski Channel up until V.E. Day in May 1945, after which he was finally to return to the UK in July 1945.
Peter joined the Coastal Forces Veterans Association (CFVA) shortly after its inauguration, becoming member No 29. He also enjoyed a long association with the Veterans of Vis for which he organised return visits to the island, culminating in the award of BEM (Civil) in the Queens Honours list of 2017 for his work commemorating the Adriatic Campaign of the Second World War.