Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Reid (December 21, 1921 – November 28, 2001) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was 21 years old, and an Acting Flight Lieutenant in the 61 Squadron , Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 3 November 1943 on the way to Düsseldorf, Germany, Flight Lieutenant Reid's windscreen was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt and the gun turrets and cockpit badly damaged. Saying nothing of his multiple injuries, he continued on his mission and soon afterwards was attacked again, his navigator being killed and the wireless operator fatally wounded. He was wounded again, and also the flight engineer, while the Lancaster received more serious damage. Pressing on to his target, Flight Lieutenant Reid released his bombs, then set course for home and in spite of growing weakness from loss of blood, managed to land his crippled aircraft safely.
On Monday I attended the funeral of Bill Reid VC in Crieff, Scotland, to where he retired 20 years ago.
Many people in the little town were surprised to learn that Bill held the VC. Stories of his modesty were told throughout the eulogies, perhaps the most amazing being that his wife was not told of the VC until after they were married. His modesty, charity and gentleness were recognised by many speakers. Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Wilson, after recounting the details of the seriously injured Bill's route through a hail of attack to drop his bombs, explained that when he once told Bill how he travelled by one local road to visit him, Bill said, "Oh, I never use that road. It's far too dangerous."
The church was packed with a mixture of local people and RAF dignitaries. I found myself sitting behind a Squadron Leader. An Air Commodore and an RAF Equerry to HM The Queen sat behind me. All around were elderly men, proudly wearing the tie of the Aircrew Association, of which Bill was Vice Chairman. Sitting alongside Bill's family was John Cruickshank VC, a lifelong friend of Bill & Violet.
The service was about Bill Reid the man, rather than Bill Reid the VC, but it was impossible to avoid the realisation that we were mourning one of the diminishing number of these great men, as well as the friend, neighbour, husband, father and grandfather.
As people filed out of the church, the Reid family spoke personally to everyone. Lines of RAF personnel and ATC cadets lined the driveway onto the road as Bill's cortege prepared for his final journey. With precision timing, four Tornado aircraft of Bill's famous 617 Squadron approached at low level, overflying the church in diamond formation. Precisely as they passed over the church, the rearmost aircraft peeled off into a vertical climb and powered upwards into the clouds. Although it was all too soon lost from sight in the low cloudbase, for almost a minute the crackling roar of its engines thundered down into the silence below, in a powerful farewell to a brave colleage. Many onlookers were visibly stunned by this rare gesture of respect for a very special man.
In a week where newspapers have been consumed by accounts of the death of a musician, we have lost one of the real heroes of our time. Bill Reid VC personified the bravery and sacrifice of an entire generation. We shall seldom see his like again.
|Obituary: Flight Lieutenant William Reid VC||[[<IMG SRC="images/extra/et.gif" WIDTH=115 HEIGHT=22 BORDER=0 ALT="The Daily Telegraph">]]
29 Nov 2001
FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WILLIAM REID, who has died aged 79, won a Victoria Cross in 1943 for his heroism on a bombing expedition to Germany.
On the night of November 3 1943, Reid was serving with 61 Squadron as captain of a Lancaster bomber on the way to Dusseldorf when it was attacked by a Messerschmitt 110 nightfighter as it crossed the Dutch coast.
His windscreen was shattered, the plane's gun turrets, steering mechanism and cockpit were badly damaged, and Reid himself sustained serious injuries to his head, shoulders and hands. The plane dived 200 ft before he managed to regain control.
Saying nothing about his injuries, Reid called his crew on the intercom for a damage report and proposed that they forge ahead regardless. As the Lancaster continued on its mission, it was soon attacked again, this time by a Focke-Wulf 190, which raked the plane with gunfire, killing Reid's navigator, fatally wounding the wireless operator and knocking out the oxygen system. Reid sustained further injuries to his right arm, but still refused to turn from his target.
Sustained by bottled oxygen from a portable supply administered by his flight engineer, Sergeant J W Norris, Reid pressed on for another 50 minutes. He memorised the course to his target and continued in such a normal manner that the bomb aimer, cut off from the cockpit by the failure of the plane's communications system, had no idea his captain was injured. After reaching Dusseldorf, he released his bombs right over the centre of the target - a ball bearing factory - then set course for home.
Semi-conscious at times, freezing cold because of his broken windscreen, and half blinded by blood from a head wound which kept streaming into his eyes, Reid, assisted by flight engineer Norris, somehow kept the plane in the air despite heavy anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch coast and the physical effort required to hold the control column steady.
As they crossed the North Sea, all four engines cut out and the plane went into a spin. Luckily Norris remembered in the nick of time that he had forgotten to change over the petrol cocks to a full tank, and swiftly rectified the fault.
Eventually they managed to find their way home, taking their bearings from the Pole Star and the moon. As he came into land at Shipdham air base, Reid had to use an emergency pressure bottle to hand-pump the undercarriage down, and this exertion and the aircraft's descent into warmer air reopened his wounds. As the Lancaster touched down, the undercarriage collapsed and the bomber skidded along the runway for 60 yards before coming to a halt.
His citation read: "Wounded in two attacks, without oxygen, suffering severely from cold, his navigator dead, his wireless operator fatally wounded, his aircraft crippled and helpless, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany, every additional mile increasing the hazards of the long and perilous journey home. This tenacity and devotion to duty were beyond praise."
William Reid was born at Baillieston, Glasgow, on December 12 1921, the son of a blacksmith. He was educated at Coatbridge Secondary School and studied metallurgy for a time, but then applied to join the RAF.
After training in Canada, he received his wings and a commission in June 1942, then trained on twin-engined Airspeed Oxfords at Little Rissington before moving to OTU, North Luffenham. There, his skill as a pilot led to his being selected as an instructor, flying obsolete Wellington bombers, albeit with the promise of a posting to a Lancaster unit.
The posting did not materialise until July 1943, when he was sent to 1654 Conversion Unit, Wigsley, near Newark, where he flew his first operational mission as second pilot, in a Lancaster of 9 Squadron, in a raid on Munchen-Gladbach.
In September he was posted to 61 Squadron at Syerston, Newark, to commence Lancaster bombing operations, and flew seven sorties to various German cities before the raid on Dusseldorf.
After a period in hospital, Reid went to C Flight 617 ("Dambuster") Squadron at Woodhall Spa in January 1944 and flew sorties to various targets in France.
In July 1944, 617 Squadron was linked with 9 Squadron for a "Tallboy" deep penetration bomb attack on a V-bomb storage dump at Rilly-la-Montagne, near Rheims. As Reid released his bomb over the target at 12,000 ft, he felt his aircraft shudder under the impact of a bomb dropped by another Lancaster 6,000 ft above. The bomb ploughed through his plane's fuselage, severing all control cables and fatally weakening its structure, and Reid gave the order to bail out.
As members of his crew scrambled out, the plane went into a dive, pinning Reid to his seat. Reaching overhead, he managed to release the escape hatch panel and struggled out just as the Lancaster broke in two. He landed heavily by parachute, breaking his arm in the fall.
Within an hour he was captured by a German patrol and taken prisoner. After various transfers, he ended the war in Luckenwalde PoW camp, west of Berlin.
Reid left the RAF in 1946 and resumed his studies, first at Glasgow University and later at the West of Scotland Agricultural College. After graduating, he went on a travelling scholarship for six months, studying agriculture in India, Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada.
In 1950, he became an agricultural adviser to the MacRobert Trust, Douneside. From 1959 to his retirement in 1981, he was an adviser to a firm of animal feed manufacturers.
Reid took a deep interest in ex-servicemen's associations; he was a member of the GC and VC Association and honorary vice-president of the Aircrew Association. He was president of the ACA's Tay branch and its Scottish Saltire branch, and president of the Royal British Legion Scotland (Crieff) branch.
He always made light of his wartime achievements: "I don't think I was a hero," he said; "I don't think of myself as a brave man. We were young. All we wanted was to get our tour over and done with."
When he married Violet Gallagher in 1952, he did not tell her of his VC. She was, he confessed, "a wee bit impressed" when she found out. She and their son and daughter survive him.
|Bill Reid, Dies at 79, Heroic Bomber Pilot for British in World War II||[[<IMG SRC="images/extra/nyt.gif" WIDTH=115 HEIGHT=22 BORDER=0 ALT="The New York Times">]]
8 Dec 2001
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Bill Reid, a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II who received the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for valor, for completing a bombing mission over Germany in a crippled plane after he was severely wounded and his navigator killed, died on Nov. 28 at his home in Crieff, Scotland. He was 79.
He had heart problems in recent years, the British news media reported.
On the night of Nov. 3, 1943, Flight Lieutenant Reid was flying a Lancaster bomber named O for Oboe, in a 600-plane mission headed for the heavily defended steelworks and ball-bearing plant in Düsseldorf, Germany.
His nine previous bombing missions had been uneventful, but this time, while his four-engine bomber was over the Netherlands, there was a blinding flash. A Messerschmitt 110 fighter raked his plane with machine-gun fire.
Mr. Reid was wounded in the head, hands and shoulder, his windshield was shattered and the plane's control mechanisms were damaged. The cold air rushing in froze the blood on his eyelids.
"I felt as if my head had been blown off," he recalled long afterward.
He continued on with his crew of six, but soon after that first attack, a Focke-Wulf 190 fighter riddled the bomber all along its fuselage. Mr. Reid was wounded in the right arm that time, his navigator was killed, his radio operator was severely wounded and his flight engineer was wounded in the arm. The plane's oxygen supply and hydraulics were crippled, and its compass was destroyed.
But having memorized the route to Düsseldorf, Mr. Reid kept flying for the remaining 200 miles in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire while receiving bottled oxygen from the injured flight engineer, Sgt. James Norris.
Fifty minutes later, the plane arrived over Düsseldorf and the bombardier released directly over the target.
On the way back to England, navigating by the stars and moon and receiving help from the flight engineer in maintaining the controls, Mr. Reid lost consciousness several times. Then all four engines failed over the North Sea.
The engines were restarted, but the plane could not make it back to its takeoff point, a Royal Air Force base near Nottingham. So Mr. Reid headed for the American air base Shipdham, nearer the coast.
As his bomber circled for a landing, flashing its lights to signal distress, Mr. Reid used an emergency pressure bottle to pump the undercarriage down by hand and in the process reopened his hand wounds. The undercarriage collapsed as the bomber touched down on a misty runway, making a belly landing. After slithering for 60 yards, it came to a stop with no further injuries to the crew.
Mr. Reid was hospitalized for five weeks, then joined the famed Dambuster Squadron. On July 31, 1944, after 24 more missions, he was bombing a German rocket storage site near Reims, France, from an altitude of 12,000 feet when his Lancaster was hit by bombs dropped from another British plane flying at 18,000 feet. That bomber was supposed to be 15 minutes behind, but was directly overhead.
His plane was torn apart and went into a spin. When the nose fell off, he parachuted out and landed in a tree. The radio operator also ejected, but the other five crewmen went down with the plane. Lieutenant Reid was captured and spent 10 months as a prisoner of war.
William Reid was born Dec. 21, 1921, in Glasgow, Scotland, one of five children of a blacksmith, and studied metallurgy before joining the Royal Air Force. After the war, he studied at the University of Glasgow and the West of Scotland Agricultural College, then worked as a manager for agricultural firms.
He is survived by his wife, Violet; a son, Graeme; and a daughter, Susan.
Mr. Reid's death, and that of Tommy Gould, a British submarine crewman of World War II, who died on Thursday at 86, leave 19 surviving holders of the Victoria Cross, first presented by Queen Victoria in 1857 for heroism in the Crimean War. Mr. Gould received his Victoria Cross for helping to dislodge two unexploded bombs aboard the submarine Thrasher following an attack by German aircraft off Crete in February 1942.
While Mr. Reid was hospitalized, his group commander asked why he had continued on into Germany after the two fighter-plane attacks.
"Well, my four engines were still going and my plane was still flying," he replied.
There was, perhaps, another explanation. As Mr. Reid once put it: "My mother used to say, 'He's a very determined boy.' "
|<A NAME="news">Obituary: Bill Reid, VC
Bomber pilot who nursed his badly damaged Lancaster back to base, steering by moon and stars when his navigator was killed by machinegun fire
|[[<IMG SRC="images/extra/timesxl.150x23.gif" WIDTH=150 HEIGHT=23 BORDER=0 ALT="The Times">]]
Tue 29 Nov 2001
Reproduced with permission
On the night of November 3, 1943, Flight Lieutenant Bill Reid was the pilot and captain of the Lancaster bomber O for Oboe of No 61 Squadron, flying on a mission to attack German industrial installations in Düsseldorf. Shortly after crossing the Dutch coast the Lancaster was attacked by a Messerschmitt 110 night fighter, which the mid-upper and rear air-gunners drove off only with difficulty because their turret heating systems had failed and their hands were consequently numb with cold. In the attack, the Me110’s machineguns shattered Reid’s windscreen and wounded him in the head, shoulders and hands.
After establishing that all his crew members were unhurt and without mentioning his own injuries, Reid renewed his course for Düsseldorf. He then discovered that the Messerschmitt’s guns had also damaged the rear gun-turret and the elevator trimming tabs, making the aircraft difficult to control.
Reid had barely assessed the total damage when O for Oboe was attacked by a second night fighter. The Lancaster was raked from end to end with machinegun fire which killed the navigator, fatally injured the radio operator and wounded Reid for a fourth time. The rear-gunner succeeded in driving off the fighter with his one remaining serviceable Browning, but the mid-upper turret was damaged and the aircraft’s inter-communication and oxygen systems were put out of action.
Using oxygen from a portable supply operated by the flight engineer, Reid continued towards Düsseldorf, still some 200 miles distant, on a course he had memorised. Meanwhile the bomb-aimer, isolated by the failure of the intercom, remained unaware of his captain’s injuries or of the other casualties to the crew.
As they approached the target area he recognised the night’s objective and released the bombs over the centre. (The accuracy was verified by photographs taken automatically by the Lancaster’s camera 28 seconds later.) His mission accomplished, Reid set course for home, steering by the Moon and Pole Star. Soon the intense cold from the shattered windscreen and shortage of oxygen caused him to slip into semi-consciousness. Helped by the bomb-aimer who had joined him in the cockpit, the flight engineer kept O for Oboe in the air, fortunately avoiding further damage from heavy anti-aircraft fire as they recrossed the Dutch coast.
Reid recovered consciousness over the North Sea and, despite his vision being partly obscured by blood from his head wound, resumed control and prepared to land at the nearest airfield. This was accomplished through ground mist and without further injury to the surviving crew, although one leg of the undercarriage collapsed as soon as the aircraft’s weight load came to bear on it.
The citation for Reid’s Victoria Cross concluded: “Wounded in two attacks, Flight Lieutenant Reid showed superb courage and leadership in penetrating a further 200 miles into enemy territory to attack one of the most strongly defended targets in Germany. His tenacity and devotion to duly are beyond praise.” The air vice-marshal commanding the bomber group to which 61 Squadron belonged visited Reid in hospital and asked, “Why didn’t you turn back?” He replied that the idea had simply not occurred to him.
The Düsseldorf raid was Bill Reid’s tenth bombing mission and he resolved to return to active duty as soon as he had recovered from his injuries. His skill and determination were rewarded by a posting to No 617 (Dambuster) Squadron, then led by Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, who would later also win the VC to add to his DSO and DFC.
Reid flew bombing missions with 617 Squadron until a daylight raid on a V1 flying bomb storage site in a railway tunnel at Rilly la Montagne, to the east of Paris, brought his wartime career to a dramatic halt on July 31, 1944. (By this time command of 617 had passed to Wing Commander Willie Tait.)
Reid’s task was to attack with a 12,000lb “Tallboy” bomb (a revolutionary deep-penetration weapon which was also the brainchild of Barnes Wallis, creator of the Dambusting bomb). His attack was to close one end of the tunnel, the other being sealed by a similar Tallboy attack. A follow-up group of Lancasters was to attack 15 minutes later with delayed-action bombs to crater the approaches to the tunnel.
Unfortunately, as soon as Reid had dropped his bomb (which he did with uncanny accuracy), an aircraft of the follow-up group bombed early from 18,000 ft immediately above him. One of the bombs struck Reid’s outer port engine, without exploding, and a second cut through the fuselage, severing control leads to the ailerons and rudder, rendering the control column useless.
As the aircraft began to spin, the nose fell away and Reid found himself falling through the air in an uncanny silence after the roar of the Lancaster’s engines. He pulled his parachute cord, landed unhurt in a tree and was taken prisoner within half an hour. Of the seven-man crew, only he and the radio operator, Flying Officer David Luker, DFC, DFM, survived the most unusual experience of being “bombed down”.
First imprisoned near Frankfurt, Reid later found himself in Stalag Luft III in what is now Poland. As the Red Army advanced in early 1945, all the occupants of the camp were marched eastwards for a week before being put on a train to Luckenwalde, southwest of Berlin. They were still there when the Russians captured the place in April and were held for a further month before being released and returned to England. Reid took his service discharge at once to start a degree course in agriculture.
William Reid was born in the Baillieston district of Glasgow on 1921, the third son of William Reid — a second generation blacksmith. After attending the Coatbridge Secondary School in Baillieston, he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1940.
He graduated from Glasgow University in 1949 and joined the MacRobert Trust Farms Ltd in Aberdeenshire on a scholarship which sent him on a tour of agricultural installations in India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. After his return, he worked as an agricultural adviser to the MacRobert Trust, 1950-59.
From 1950 he was for twenty years national cattle and sheep adviser for Spillers Farm Feeds and ran the Spillers milk production trial at the national dairy event in London and Kenilworth. He retired in 1980 and moved to Crieff.
He was a founder member and later a life vice-president of the Aircrew Association. He was one of the ten VC holders who accompanied the VC10 aircraft promotional tour of East Africa in 1972 and in recognition of his work for the Aircrew Association he was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1988.
His death leaves 20 living holders of the Victoria Cross.
Reid married in 1952 Violet Campbell Gallagher, who was completely unaware that he was a holder of the VC until they were married. She was a daughter of William Gallagher, sports editor of the Glasgow Daily Record, and survives him with their son and daughter.
Bill Reid, VC, wartime bomber pilot, was born on December 21, 1921. He died on November 28, 2001, aged 79.
Reid VC Cadet Centre
A new joint Air Training Corps and Army Cadet Force building is being opened in Inverurie, Scotland by Mrs Violet Reid, wife of Flt Lt Bill Reid. The Reid VC cadet centre will provide a HQ for nearly 70 cadets in the town and is being officially opened on November 20th 2004.
For a report and pictures look at www.aberdeenatc.org
Fg Off, RAF VR(T)
877(Inverurie) Squadron Air Training Corps
please update if you know where his medal is publicly displayed
- British VCs of World War 2 (John Laffin, 1997)
- Monuments To Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
- SCOTLAND'S FORgotten VALOUR (Graham Ross, 1995)
- Jim Mcnulty, Stuart Patterson, Robert Thomson, Richard Heaton, Pyers Symon, Peter Reilly, John Scullard, James Hood, Edwin King, Carole M. Chop, Brandon Smith, Ashley Atkinson
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