Christleton Village History Group
Christleton Village Voices
Remembering our Forgotten Heroes 1914-18
No 104 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Wyton, Huntingdonshire, on 4th September 1917, from a nucleus provided by No. 20 Training Squadron, It then moved to Andover, prior to being posted to France in May 1918 equipped with DH9 aircraft. The squadron was posted to the bombing force which, on 6th June, became known as the Independent Force and from 8th June until the Armistice was engaged on long-distance day-bombing raids into Germany.
On nearly all its raids - and it made a good many - it met the most strenuous opposition from large formations of enemy fighters, but it succeeded in destroying thirty and shooting down another 27 out of control. More than 41 tons of bombs were dropped, the greater proportion on German towns far behind the lines. The squadron had to re-form three times owing to heavy casualties. The squadron was equipped with Airco DH.9 aircraft designed by de Havilland – and was a British bomber used during WWI. It was a single-engined biplane. It seems that its engine was unreliable, and failed to provide the expected power, giving the DH.9 poorer performance than the aircraft it was meant to replace, and resulted in heavy losses, particularly over the Western Front.
As the aircraft only went into service with 104 Squadron at the beginning of July Norman was probably taking part in one of the first bombing raids acting as an Observer. His short service with the RAF is recorded in the Parish Magazine of August 1918.
His parents received two letters to explain his demise, which tells his story very graphically
The first was from the Commanding Officer of 104 Squadron, and was sent on the 9th July, 1918
It is with regret that I have to inform you that your son Lieutenant N H Wildig has been missing since the 7th July. The machine your son was in was seen to go down at the other side of the lines, under control, and there is every reason to believe he is alive and unhurt. Your son fought gallantly all the way down and continued firing at the enemy aeroplanes that were following his machine. Your son was an excellent observer and a splendid officer. He has done good work out here. I cannot tell you how sorry we are to lose him. His loss is greatly felt in the new squadron in which he was well liked. Believe me
J Quinnell Major.
I am writing to offer you my deep sympathy on the loss of your boy, who was my observer on that unfortunate raid. It might console you to know that it was a most splendid death, as he fought to the very end, and managed to send a Fokker down in flames before he himself was killed. When he had used up all his ammunition he began to fire on the Huns with Very Lights, so you see that there was not much fear in him.
He must have been killed instantly, for the bullets went through his head, and therefore he could not have felt any pain. The German’s assured me that he was buried with full Military Honours at Rixingen the place where we were brought down.
Believe me to be
Michael du Cray
Son of Hugh and Sarah E Wildig of Hawthorn House, Christleton, Chester.
On East boundary
A Memorial Service was held for Norman at St James’ Christleton in December 1918.
From: 104 Squadron War Diary.
On the 6th July 1918, the 104 Squadron bombed railroads and factories of Kaiserslautern. Second Lieutenant Wildig, a rookie freshly landed in France. Despite encountering enemy aircraft and exchanged a few shots, the mission was a success.
On the 7th July 1918 at 12.50, the mission was repeated with the same crew aboard a registered De-Havelland DH9 D2878. They arrived over Sarrebourg and were attacked by eight Pfalz German fighters. Lieutenant Sauermann of the Jasta 70 chases a 100 metres between each plane. Second Lieutenant Wildig continues to strife for their defence, but he was killed. Lieutenant Du Cray cannot escape the German fighter, and he crashes at Rexingen. Liuetenant Suaermann recovers the rudder of the aircraft as a war trophy.
David Cummings, Christleton Great War Voices Project
David, Gill, Ceridwen and Owain Fisher Bangor, North Wales
Photographs and Letters: Fisher (Wildig) Family Archive; Nigel Meyrick
Commonwealth Graves Commission Website