Air Gunner William Wigham and 101 Squadron RAF, 1941-42

'During the bomber campaign against Germany 101 Squadron flew on more raids than any other bomber squadron but suffered the highest casualties of any RAF unit in the war, losing 1,176 aircrew killed in action.'

A quote from the official 101 Squadron RAF website.

101 Squadron was previously equipped with Blenheim light bombers. The unit was re-equipped with the Vickers Armstrong Wellington 1C in April 1941 and was then based at RAF Oakington, though many missions were also flown from the satellite airfield at Bourn.

The first Wellington combat loss with the Squadron was one aircraft during a 24/7/41 daylight raid on Brest.

Between July 1941 and September 1942, when it re-equipped with Lancasters, the squadron lost 20 Wellington aircraft with 86 aircrew killed.

William Wigham flew his first mission with the squadron on 20/9/41 and his 32nd last on 1/6/42, all as rear gunner. So his career is virtually a history of the squadron during this phase of the air war against Nazi Germany

Aircrew of the Wellington 1C was six men: two pilots (first and second), observer (navigator/bomb aimer), radio operator/air gunner (WOP/AG), front gunner and rear gunner. See the wartime schematic drawing at right.

The more powerful Wellington III, with which the squadron was equipped from early 1942, had a crew of five--only one pilot as standard and with dedicated navigator and bomb aimer crewmen.

The first combat loss of a Wellington III for the squadron is 19/5/42, so this would date the large group aircrew photo at bottom right, which features Welllington III X3670, as somewhere near this date. Click on the image for an enlargement and caption. The aircraft in question X3670 was lost on 30/5/42. The earliest confirmed aircrew casualty on the photo is also 30/5/42.

Aircraft loss and crew details below are extracted from W R Chorley’s excellent books Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volumes 1941 and 1942. I have numbered and highlighted William Wigham’s 32 missions, as per his DFC Citation, in bold:

101 Squadron RAF combat losses during the period it was equipped with Wellingtons:

24/7/41 Brest (daylight). One 101 Sq aircraft lost. Wellington 1C R1702 was shot down by Me 109 fighters in the target area. Four killed: Flt Lt F H Craig MiD (pilot), Sgt A E Sainsbury, Sgt D Love, Sgt W H Price. Two POW: Sgt E J Hesmondhaigh, Sgt F M Smith.

2-3/8/41 Hamburg. Two 101 Sq aircraft lost.

Wellington 1C R1088. Crash-landed on return in Kent. All six crew survived: P/O Bundy (pilot), P/O Reynolds, Sgt Lewis, Sgt Hayter, Sgt France, Sgt Thompson.

Wellington 1C R1800. Shot down by a nightfighter over Holland. All six crew killed. They were: Sgt W R Davey (piolot), Sgt W Watson, Sgt L Hill, Sgt G A Smith, Sgt W H Walker, Sgt T C Quinlan.

19-20/8/41 Kiel. One 101 Sq aircraft lost. Wellington 1C W5715. Lost without trace. The crew were: Sgt W R Fisher, Sgt J G Richardson, Sgt J A Nichols, Sgt J Bainbridge, Sgt R Willis, Sgt D McIntyre.

31-1st/8-9/41 Cologne. One 101 Sq aircraft lost. Wellington 1C R1703. Brought down over Belgium. Three crew killed: P/O J F Ashton (pilot), Sgt E R V Lane, Sgt J B Redden RCAF. One POW, Sgt R T Wood RCAF. Two evaders: Sgt L A Warburton, Sgt J W Hutton.

10-11/9/41 Torino. One 101 Sq aircraft lost. Wellington 1C R1699, SR D. Force-landed in France. Two men's exact fate still not known, presumed dead: P/O Allen (pilot), Sgt Christensen. Four evaders: Sgt R W A Saxton, Sgt G Campbell, Sgt J R Worby, Sgt H I Hickton.

William Wigham DFC's combat career with 101 Squadron began with a mission to Ostend on 20/9/41. Highlighted in bold and numbered consecutively, these are the 32 missions he flew on through to the end of his tour on to 1/6/42. The details in quotes are taken from his DFC citation:

20-21/9/41 WW’s first mission. Ostend, One 101 Sq aircraft lost, Wellington 1C X9922. Crashed near Northampton on return after radio failure. Two crew injured, pilot, W R Dil RNZAF, later died, Sgt Rawbathan. Four killed: D I Evans, W R Lugar RCAF, D G Chattell RCAF, F D Rogers

101 Sq Welllington and crews, 1942
William Wigham's 101 Sq Wellington crew