In our new feature ‘Those Who Served’ we have teamed up with the International Bomber Command Centre to learn about the men who served with bomber command during the Second World War and pay our respects in remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each month we will be sharing one of their stories, the first of these is that of Sergeant Gilbert ‘Wheeler’ Whittles.
Gilbert was born in Yorkshire close to the Wentworth Estate. Following school there and in South Wales he attended Aberystwyth University. From a small boy “Wheeler” was fascinated by aeroplanes and flight, as a teenager in the early war years he had expertly modelled many current wartime aircraft in balsa wood and as soon as he became old enough was eager to enlist as aircrew. His older brother was already in the Navy and his younger one was to serve in the RAF later, Wheeler’s sister was by then nursing in the war-torn east end of London. Despairing of the delay in pilot training he volunteered as an air-gunner and by August 1943 was under training (picture), and subsequently posted to 44 squadron at Dunholm Lodge to become tail gunner in Lancaster KM-V, LL920.
Just after 9.30 pm on the evening of 26th April 1944 KM-V with 7 crew took off under the pilotage of Gordon Oldham DFC, with Wheeler in the cramped and cold rear gunner’s position, their target an engineering plant in Schweinfurt, Southern Germany. Whether KM-V reached the target is unknown, but they were never to return home. Wreckage of their aircraft was found in the Black Forest, and the full crew of 7 were buried by the people of Oberkirchen, a local village. After the war their remains were removed to Durnbach War Cemetery at Bad Tolz near Munich.
Wheeler was just 19 when he died.
Lost, but never forgotten, Wheeler’s name can be found on Panel 115 of the International Bomber Command Centre Memorial in Lincolnshire.
A big thank you to the team at the IBCC for sharing Sergeant Gilbert ‘Wheeler’ Whittles story with us. Please do take a look at the IBCC’s website and see how you can help and get involved in supporting this fantastic memorial and remembrance project.
Credits: (Apart from the Cover Photo) All information and photos were kindly taken and or provided by the team at the International Bomber Command Centre.