2nd Lieutenant Norman Wildig was born at Hawthorn House, Little Heath Road in 1899.
He was the son of Churchwarden Hugh and Mrs Sarah Wildig, and grandson of Joseph Mayers, Captain of St James’ Tower Bellringers.
Norman attended Christleton Boys School before getting a scholarship to Chester Grammar School. Like any teenager he liked adventure, but in 1914 his world, like so many others was changed for ever. He left school and enlisted in the 22nd Cheshire Regiment, but when volunteers were needed to become pilots in the Royal Flying Corps, he volunteered to undertake Officer Training.
He was attached to No 20 Squadron in September 1917 for initial training, but in early 1918 he joined the newly formed 104 Squadron of the Royal Air Force which was being equipped to fly bombers to take the war to the enemy. After a short time of practice in the south of England the squadron transferred to France and from the 18th June 1918 until the Armistice were engaged in long distance bombing raids on Germany.
104 Squadron were equipped with de Havilland 9 bi-planes with single engines and open cockpits. Yet they carried bombs and their only defence was a machine gun operated by the co- pilot or observer from the rear cockpit. Hugh’s career as a co-pilot lasted just four weeks, because on the 7th July his mother received the following message.
Dear Mrs Wildig,
It is with regret that I have to inform you that your son Lieutenant Wildig is missing. The machine your son was in was seen to go down behind enemy lines, under control, and there is every reason to believe your son is alive and unhurt. He fought gallantly all the way down, firing at the enemy following his machine. He was an excellent officer and a splendid fellow.
However the actual story of his death didn’t become known until December 17th 1918, when Mrs Wildig received this letter from Norman’s Pilot, Michael du Gray who had been a prisoner of war in Germany, and had arrived back in England and was a patient at a Hospital in London. He wrote,
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 he fought to the very end, and managed to send an enemy aircraft down in flames, before he was killed. When he had used up all his ammunition, he continued to fire on the enemy with very lights, so you can see there was no fear in him. He must have been killed instantly, and couldn’t have felt any pain. The Germans assured me that he was buried with full military honours at Rixingen, the place where we were brought down.
Norman is buried in a Communal Cemetery in this small town in the Moselle Valley, which is still tended today by local families. His headstone says;
Norman Hugh Wildig Killed in action 7th July 1918 age 19
Our choir would now like to pay their own tribute by singing the anthem
“Non Nobis Domine”
Written by Lawrence Ashmore with music by Patrick Doyle and arranged by Graham Preskett,
from the film score of Kenneth Branagh’s film Henry Fifth