Date of birth: 1923
Date of death: 4.3.1945
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Family information: Husband of Olive Wilkinson
Rank: Warrant Officer
Service number: 553806
Frank enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves and was appointed a Warrant Officer – Service Number 553806 – and served in 524 Squadron.
This squadron was based in various locations from October 1943 although it is unclear as to exactly when or where Frank joined the squadron.
October-December 1943: Oban
April-July 1944: Davidstowe Moor
July 1944: Docking
July-November 1944: Bircham Newton
November 1944-May 1945: Langham
The squadron was formed for the second time on 7 April 1944, in the south of England. This time the squadron was equipped with Wellingtons and was used for reconnaissance off the French coast. Its role was to find German E-Boats and guide strike aircraft onto them. The squadron was also used for anti-shipping bombing missions.
The squadron performed the anti E-boat role until the end of the war. In July 1944, as the E-boats retreated from France, the squadron moved to East Anglia, from where it operated against E-boats based in the Low Countries. At the same time the squadron absorbed No. 415 Squadron. During this period the squadron operated alongside the North Coast strike wing. During 1945 the squadron also cooperated directly with the Navy, guiding surface forces onto enemy targets. The squadron was disbanded on 25 May 1945.
In his book ‘The Cinderella Service: Coastal Command 1939-1945’, Andrew W Hendrie describes some of his experiences with 524 at a time when Frank would have been with the squadron. Some extracts are as follows.
“When posted to 524 Squadron at RAF Langham I became aware of empty bed spaces in the Nissen huts that served as accommodation.
“No 524 was involved mainly in anti E-boat operations off the Dutch coast, which during the long winter nights were very active. 524 were able to claim successes using bombs albeit with some serious losses.
“We suffered only shell hit which passed right through the tail plane before exploding. It demonstrated an advantage of fabric covering rather than metal as almost certainly the enemy’s shells were designed to encounter some resistance before exploding. It almost certainly saved the rear gunner’s life.
“Most crews adopted a fatalistic and truly philosophical outlook. In action one would be too busy to be fearful but still concerned about how the others in the crew were coping”.
On 3rd March 1945 Wellington T Box Patrol “R” took off at 18.45. The crew on board were-
F/L A Crabtree
F/S K Jones
W/O J D R Pugsley
W/O C W Powers
W/O F Wilkinson
W/O A J Bezant
W/O B R Nelsons
A message by VHF gave the ETA 01:56 – Aircraft failed to return and all crew were killed.
Frank Wilkinson is remembered with honour at the Runnymede Memorial.
Frank’s ancestry is connected to Brotherton in several ways and is probably best outlined by working backwards in time.
Frank (3rd consecutive generation of that name) was born in Brotherton in 1923. His parents were Frank (2) born in Fairburn (1902) and Emily Humpherson (1903), also from Fairburn.
They were married in 1922 in Tadcaster and at some stage shortly afterwards were living in Brotherton. The Humpherson family were originally from Warwickshire.
Frank (2) was the son of Frank (1), sometimes referred to as Francis who was born in 1860 in Methley. He married Sarah Elizabeth Witham (1860) from Brotherton on 12.2.1882 in St Edward’s Church, Brotherton. She was the daughter of Joseph and Martha Witham both born in Brotherton about 1824. Both Frank (1) and Joseph Witham were ‘miners’.
Frank (2) and Sarah had a number of children, the eldest being born in Methley and the rest in Fairburn.
In 1943 Frank (3) married Olive Perfect of Brotherton. Olive was born in 1922 and the Perfects have a long association with the village (at least 1800) although her direct ancestors were a little more scattered. Her father, William, was from Beal but married Edna Laycock from Brotherton.
In the first quarter (Jan to March) 1945 Dianne, the daughter of Frank and Olive, was born but it is quite likely that Frank never saw his daughter due to the date of his death.