Christleton Village History Group

Christleton Village Voices

Remembering our Forgotten Heroes 1914-18

The Fisher Family from Bangor in North Wales visit the village with memorabilia from their family collection of images and papers for Norman Wildig. The project team met with the family and have created the story of Norman in WWI from their and Village records.
Norman Hugh Wildig RAF 2nd Lieutenant 104 Squadron

Norman died in aerial combat in the Moselle Valley behind German lines on 7th July 1918. He is buried in a Communal Cemetery at Rechicourt le Chateau, at Rixingen.
2nd Lieut. Norman Wildig was born and lived at Hawthorn House, Littleheath Road, Christleton in 1899, the eldest son of Churchwarden Hugh and Mrs Sarah Wildig. He was the grandson of Joseph Mayers, one of Christleton’s most influential residents and Captain of the Bellringers at St James’
Norman attended Christleton Boys School as a pupil of Sam Earlam, and went on to further education at Chester City Grammar School. During the war he joined the Army and enrolled with the 22nd Cheshire Regiment. However when the opportunity arose, he volunteered for Officer Cadet Training with the Royal Flying Corps. He clearly showed great aptitude and at the beginning of 1918 he transferred to the newly formed Royal Air force and joined 104 Squadron. Within weeks he found himself on the front line.

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.
Norman Wildig is missing. His aeroplane came down behind enemy lines. He was only a boy, but with great character. His advance in the Air Force was rapid, and he was carrying the war to Germany. He was bombing the enemy before anyone realised he had left the village, and was killed in the discharge of his duty.
The Rector, Revd. G.M.V. Hickey

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

Dear Mrs Wildig,
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
Yours sincerely
J Quinnell Major.
The second letter was sent from the Central RAF Hospital Hampstead London on the 17th December 1918, five months later and after the Armistice on the 11th November. It seems likely that the writer, Norman’s pilot had been returned home for treatment from a German Prisoner of War Camp.

He writes;
Dear Mrs Wildig,
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
Yours sincerely
Michael du Cray
Norman was an observer in the aircraft he was flying in. The photograph on the left illustrates the open nature of the cockpit, and the position of the observer who was also a gunner trying to repel attacking German aircraft. The letters above indicate the battles they fought with the enemy.
Norman is commemorated in a Communal Cemetery at Rechicourt Le Chataux at Rixingen in the Moselle Valley. His grave is the only English one in the cemetery, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records state.
WILDIG, 2nd Lt. N.H 104Squadron Royal Air Force. Killed in action, 7th July 1918. Age 19
Son of Hugh and Sarah E Wildig of Hawthorn House, Christleton, Chester.
On East boundary
Norman’s grave was generously tended by local families including the local Doctor who corresponded with the Wildig Family after the war had ended, and was possibly the source of the photograph of the crashed aircraft. The event must have been quite unique as the crash scene is surrounded by a large crowd, local people as well as men

The rudder from Norman Wildig's plane

A Memorial Service was held for Norman at St James’ Christleton in December 1918.

Huw Wildig was only a boy but he had character. His advance in the Air Force was rapid, and he was at work carrying the war into Germany and bombing the enemy before anyone realised he had left the village. No news could be obtained for some time. Only recently the information came through that he had been killed in the discharge of his duty

Roll of Honour board from the old City Grammar School bearing the name of Hugh Wildig

His parents also suffered the loss of Norman’s handicapped brother Reginald aged 14 in 1919. They never recovered from their loss.
Further Research by Nigel Meyrick
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.
Research Team
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
My image
Norman Wildig | Christleton