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Richard Bickerton--born in 1727--entered the Royal Navy in 1739 when the War of Jenkin’s Ear broke out over Spanish colonial trade policy and took part in the attack on Cartagena, New Granada (now Colombia), in 1740. Four more years as a midshipman in several ships took him from the West Indies to the Mediterranean and thence to the English Channel. Early in 1744, Bickerton went to the 80-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Cornwall, then the flagship of Vice Admiral Davers, who was on his way to take command in the West Indies and who had been Bickerton’s first commanding officer. This led to his commission as a lieutenant the next year and to duty in HMS Worcester that lasted until peace came in 1748.

In 1755, the Seven Year’s War erupted with France, and he served under Boscawen, first in the Mediterranean where he commanded the fireship Aetna in 1759 and then on the west coast of Africa where he took part in the destruction of a French squadron at Lagos. This service brought him a post captain’s commission.

At the beginning of the American Revolution, Capt. Bickerton commanded the yacht Augusta. However, when the Revolutionary War broadened to international scope as France took up the American cause, he received a more fitting post commanding the 74-gun ship-of-the-line HMS Terrible, and he led her during the Battle of Ushant on 28 August 1779. Next, he commanded HMS Fortitude in the Channel in 1780 and participated in the second relief of Gibraltar in April 1781. Made a commodore not long thereafter, Bickerton sailed for the East Indies early in 1782 in the 80-gun HMS Gibraltar with a squadron of seven ships-of-the-line and a pair of frigates. Returning from that cruise in 1784, Commodore Bickerton received the Leeward Islands command two years later and flew his pennant in HMS Jupiter until promoted to flag rank on 24 September 1787.

Rear Admiral Bickerton spent the remaining years of his career in European waters. In 1790, when trouble with Spain threatened again, he undertook a subordinate command in the fleet under Lord Howe, breaking his flag in HMS Impregnable and receiving promotion to vice admiral while still in that office. After diplomacy obviated hostilities in this latest affair with Spain, Bickerton became port admiral at Plymouth. While still so employed, he died on 25 February 1792.


(BDE-75: dp. 1,400; l. 306'0"; b. 36'10"; dr. 10' 9"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 200; a. 3 3", 2 40mm., 8 20mm., 4 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Buckley)

Eisele (DE-75) was laid down on 3 May 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Corp.; reallocated to the Royal Navy under the terms of the lend-lease program on 22 June 1943, losing the name Eisele to DE-34 as a result; launched on 24 July 1943; transferred to the United Kingdom on 17 October 1943 and commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Bickerton (K. 466).

During World War II, Bickerton earned “battle honors” for service in the Atlantic, in the Arctic, off Normandy, and in the English Channel. On 6 May 1944, Bickerton teamed with sisterships HMS Aylmer (K. 463) and HMS Bligh (K. 467), and planes from the escort carrier HMS Vindex, in destroying U 765, and she scored a solo “kill” seven weeks later when she sank U 269 on 25 June. Four weeks after that while operating in the Arctic with a group built around the escort carrier HMS Nabob, Bickerton suffered a torpedo hit from U-354 on 22 August 1944 and sank that same day.

Raymond A. Mann

3 February 2006