In May 1917 the Malvern News reported: “Mr James Hickling of The Manse, Cowleigh Road, Malvern a former member of the local Police Force has received intimation that his eldest son, Reginald Harold Hickling of the Royal Flying Corps has been killed. He was 29 years of age, and unmarried.”
Reginald was for two years a gardener at Lambton Castle, the residence of the Earl of Durham, before going into the army. In former years he was employed at Madresfield Court gardens. He joined the 22nd Durham Light Infantry in March 1915 but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in April 1916. In March 1917 he joined 13 Squadron in France, serving as a gunner/observer.
He was killed in action on 7 May 1917, when engaged on a photographic mission for XVII Corps over Fresnoy. According to contemporary sources, he and his pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Iorwerth Roland Owen, became embroiled in an unequal contest with five enemy aircraft of Jasta 11, and one of them, piloted by German ace and “Blue Max” holder Leutnant Karl Allmenroder, shot them down.
In a letter to Mr Hickling, Major E.W. Powell of the R.F.C. said:
“I regret to tell you that your son has been killed in action on the 7th inst. He was up on photography with Lieutenant Owen, and as far as I can gather they were attacked by four or five hostile airmen. Your son was shot dead early in the fight, and the pilot was severely wounded and died shortly after landing outside the trenches. He will be a great loss to the Squadron as he was our best gunner-observer, and such a good fellow. I know what a blow it must be to you, and I can only ask you to accept my sincere sympathy in your sorrow.”
It seems that the pilot, Lieutenant Iorwerth Roland Owen was sho
t in the chest and remained conscious long enough to land his machine without an accident, landing just inside British lines around two o’clock. He died very soon afterwards in the field ambulance.’
Reginald was buried at Albuera Cemetery at Bailleul-Sire-Berthoult in the Pas de Calais and Lieutenant Owen (the son of Dr. Rowland and Margaret Owen, of Arley House, Seaforth, Lancashire) is buried at Ste Catherine British Cemetery.
The following week it was reported that Reginald Hickling’s brother, Frederick who was a Company Quartermaster Sergeant in the 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment had been Mentioned in Despatches. In June 1919, he was also awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
Malvern News 19/5/1917, 26/5/1917, 7/6/1919
Berrow's Worcester Journal Picture Supplement 26/5/1917