Tony Garforth Pickering was born at Foxton, Leicestershire on 25th August 1920. He was educated at Market Harborough Grammar School, after leaving he went to British Thomson-Houston to take up an engineering apprenticeship.
In April 1939 Pickering joined the RAFVR at Coventry as an Airman u/t Pilot and began his weekend flying training at 9 E&RFTS Ansty.Called up on 1st September 1939, Pickering left Coventry on the 15th for 3 ITW Hastings. He moved on to 15 EFTS Redhill on 23rd November and then went to 5 FTS Sealand on 27th April 1940.
With his training completed, Pickering was posted from Sealand direct to 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 27th July and arrived there with two other newly-trained pilots, Sergeants RJK Gent and SAH Whitehouse.
The CO, S/Ldr. J Worrall, concerned at their inexperience, sent them to 6 OTU on 3rd August. Having converted to Hurricanes they rejoined 32 later in the month.
Interview with Squadron Leader Tony Pickering
Shortly afterwards the squadron was ordered north to Acklington for a rest. The CO, now S/Ldr. Crossley, said that Pickering, Gent and Whitehouse were not in need of a rest and they were posted to 501 Squadron at Gravesend on the 27th. In an action with Me109’s over Caterham on 1st September Pickering was shot down in Hurricane P5200. He baled out, unhurt, and landed in the Guards Depot there, where he was initially suspected of being German. His aircraft crashed at Happy Valley, Old Coulsdon.
On 29th October Pickering claimed a Me109 destroyed. He was posted to 601 Squadron at Northolt on 20th December. He left on 14th February 1941 for 57 OTU Hawarden to be a test pilot at the MU there. Commissioned in December 1941, Pickering became an instructor at 57 OTU on the 20th of the month. He returned to operations on 19th February 1943 when he joined 131 Squadron at Castletown as a Flight Commander. Pickering served with the squadron until 7th January 1944. From then on he held various appointments in the Exeter Sector, as Controller and Gunnery Officer among other things.
On 11th February 1945 Pickering was posted to the Middle East and became a Squadron Commander at the B&GS, El Ballah. He returned to the UK in December 1945 and was released from the RAF later in the month as a Squadron Leader.
Pickering worked for GEC for many years in sales posts that involved him travelling to many parts of the world. In his spare time, for more than 70 years, he was a church bell ringer.
He died on 24th March 2016.