Reginald Charles Wilson - Obituary
by Janet Hughes (Reg's daughter)
He was known, quite simply, as Reg. He had no pretentions. He was born on 26th January 1923, in Hackney, London, the third of five children. The family later moved to Essex, where Reg attended Beal Modern School. As was the case for many of his generation, his education there came to an abrupt end in 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. After working briefly for Unilever in London, Reg signed up for the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1941, at the age of 18. He had been inspired to do this after experiencing, first hand, the devastation caused to his beloved city during the Blitz. His goal was to become a Spitfire pilot in Fighter Command... Every schoolboy’s dream in those days.... But it was not to be. Reg trained in Canada and the USA, finally qualifying, not as a pilot, but as a navigator. He returned to the UK in late 1942, and was assigned to Bomber Command in 1943.
He survived ten operational sorties before being shot down over Berlin on 20th January 1944. Half of his crew of eight men did not survive. Two of those who perished that night were buried in Berlin, but the other two were registered as Missing in Action, having no known graves. Reg became a prisoner of war in Stalag IVB, and was later transferred to an officer’s camp, where he wrote an extremely detailed account of everything which had happened to him. This diary became his most treasured possession in later life.
In 1950, Reg met his beloved wife, Barbara, at a holiday camp on the Isle of Wight. Reg had to return early from this holiday, as his father had died unexpectedly. But before he left, Reg made sure that he asked a friend to obtain Barbara’s contact details, so that they could meet again. No Facebook or mobile phones in those days! Barbara once confessed that she had not really taken a fancy to Reg at the time, and only responded to his advances because he had just lost his father, and she felt sorry for him! Eventually, Reg’s persistence paid off, and he and Barbara were married on 20th March 1954. They made their home in Chigwell, Essex, and lived in the same house for almost 6o years; the house in which they raised their three children; Robert, Janet and Helen.
After the war, Reg had returned to work at Unilever, eventually becoming an International Management Consultant. He retired in the mid 1980’s, after a long and interesting career which involved much travelling. In 2005, Reg embarked on an ambitious research project to try to discover the fate of his Halifax bomber, which had crashed 61 years previously. It’s a very long story, but suffice it to say that, not only was Reg’s quest successful, but it led to the military burial in Berlin of John Bremner, his Flight Engineer, nearly 65 years after his death. This was an amazing achievement, which was followed by the publication of Reg’s biography, “Into the Dark”, in 2015.
Reg and his wife Barbara moved to Dorset in 2014, to be nearer to their three children. Reg was amazing, meticulous, honest and loyal. He was a true gentleman, and always did the decent thing. He is much missed by Barbara, Robert, Janet, Helen, and his eight grandchildren, who loved, respected and cherished him so very much.