Seaforth Highlanders cap badge
Major (acting Lt Col) 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Service No 92766
Killed in Action 26 June 1944 at Cheux, Normandy, France aged 35
Robert was commissioned into the 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders on 2nd September 1939. He embarked for France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on 3rd October 1939. Before seeing action in France he was posted to 5th Battalion Scots Guards on 26 January 1940 to act as a ski instructor. This unit was a hastily assembled group of individuals, largely officers with ski experience. They were due to go to the aid of Finland in its war with the Soviet Union but peace was declared before they embarked and the unit stood down.
From the 1st July 1940 Robert was posted as an infantry training instructor and later became chief instructor (acting Lieutenant Colonel) at the School of Infantry. On 4th December 1943 he was posted to the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders as B Company Commander to prepare for the invasion of France. The battalion embarked for Normandy on 16 June 1944 as part of the 15th Scottish Division. On 26th June they took part in Operation Epsom in an attempt to capture a hilltop feature 'ring 100'; Robert was killed in that attack.
Robert is commemorated in Plot 4, Row D, grave No 9 St Manvieu war cemetery, Departement du Calvados Basse Normandie, France. he was awarded the 1939-45 Star and the War Medal 1939-45.
Robert was the son of Liverpool surgeon Robert Alexander Bickersteth, ex Major RAMC, and Ellen Constance (nee Wilson) of Casterton Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale. He married Penelope Bickersteth (nee Waterfield) originally of Holt, Norfolk on 20th Oct 1943. He is also commemorated on his parents memorial in St Mary's churchyard, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria. Before joining the army he was a teacher and second master at the Gordonstoun prep school, Wester Elchies, near Aberlour.
Robert was a close friend of two pre-WW2 Gordonstoun teaching staff, who knew each other from the Lake District and Cambridge University: Robert (Bobby) Chew and Freddy Spencer Chapman DSO & bar ED - explorer, naturalist, Gordonstoun housemaster (Cumming House) and decorated special forces soldier. Bickersteth and Spencer Chapman took a Gordonstoun expedition to Lapland in 1938.