Flight Lieutenant William Wigham DFC, is pictured at left, early in his RAF career, as a Sergeant Air Gunner. Note the ‘AG’ (for Air Gunner) wings brevet insignia. Photograph and service details below, courtesy of his son, Howard Wigham.

After working at Thornley Colliery for most of his previous working life, William Wigham had just secured a job as an insurance agent when war was declared. He enlisted in the RAF on the 23/9/40 as an AC2 (Aircraftsman Second Class) and did his basic training at Blackpool, Wilmslow and Towyn. Married and over 30 years old on enlistment, as a volunteer for aircrew duties he was much older than most of his fellow recruits, many of whom were still in their late teens.

He was posted to 110 Operational Training Unit on 22/6/41 and undertook further training as an air gunner. He was posted to 101 Squadron RAF, then equipped with Wellington Ic aircraft, on 9/9/41.

He was promoted to Temporary Sergeant on 31/12/41 during his first tour of combat duty, which comprised 32 missions in 1941-42.

After successfully completing his first tour, he was promoted to Temporary Flight Sergeant on 31/12/42.

He was serving as a aerial gunnery instructor at No 19 Operational Training Unit, when he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 20/3/43.

He went to 1663 Conversion Unit on 8/8/43, training on the Handley Page Halifax four-engined aircraft and was then, for his second tour of combat duty, posted to 102 Squadron RAF, which was equipped with the Halifax on 23/9/43.

After completing his second tour of 26 operational sorties with 102 Squadron, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross gallantry award.

He was posted to No 43 Base, Administration and Supply on 10/6/44. He was at the School of Administration at Stannington by 13/9/44 and served out the rest of his time in the RAF with No 43 Base, Administration and Supply from 6/4/45. He was demobbed at No 100 PDC on the 24/10/45.

His son Howard writes:

'He was demobbed and had an insurance round which he sold to buy a confectioner's shop in West Hartlepool. Unfortunately, he had to sell owing to my mother's health and returned to the mines as face-cutter at Blackhall Colliery.

He had to leave the mines in approximately 1953 owing to a heart attack, but continued to work to retirement in the Colliery Office as a wages clerk. My parents lived in Blackhall until both their deaths, Dad in 1975 and Mum in the 1990s. He had 11 brothers and sisters and some of the family still live in Thornley and Wheatley Hill.'

Flt Lt William Wigham DFC, RAF