Cyril Charles Wigram 1882-1952
Cyril Charles Wigram was born near Taunton (probably at West Monkton) on the 18th of March 1882, the 3rd son and last of 6
children of Henry James Wigram and Penelope Emily (nee Eyre) . Although born too late to be seen in the 1881 census (below),
this provides useful information about his parents, siblings and the social class into which he was born.
Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability
Henry James WIGRAM Head M Male 33 Paddington, Middlesex, England Late Lt Coldstream Guards
Penelope Emily WIGRAM Wife M Female 34 Chelsea, Middlesex, England
Florence Margaret WIGRAM Daur U Female 8 West Monkton, Somerset, England Scholar
Ronald Scott WIGRAM Son Male 6 West Monkton, Somerset, England Scholar
Kathleen Alice WIGRAM Daur Female 4 West Monkton, Somerset, England
Rachel Winiford WIGRAM Daur Female 2 West Monkton, Somerset, England
Annie HARNETT Serv U Female 30 Whiteparish, Wiltshire, England Nurse (Dom)
Elizabeth THORN Serv U Female 27 Coombe Martin, Devon, England Cook
Susan MARKS Serv U Female 23 Pitminster, Somerset, England Parlour Maid
Ellen SMITH Servt U Female 14 Whiteparish, Wiltshire, England Nurse Maid
Annie MILES Servt U Female 14 Charlton, Wiltshire, England House Maid
Census Place West Monkton, Somerset, England
Family History Library Film 1341570
Public Records Office Reference RG11
Piece / Folio 2369 / 102
Page Number 3
Cyril’s eldest brother, George Montagu , was not mentioned in the 1881 census of England and Wales.
Wigram was educated at Winchester College, beginning his life at that School in the ‘Common Time’ term of 1896 and boarding in
the Southgate House under the Rev. C.H. Hawkins. Winchester College was renowned for producing men of a high calibre, of the
19 men who joined Wigram in that term at Winchester only 5 did not later serve in either the Boer War or WW1, all but one of
these as Commissioned Officers.
After training at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Wigram is Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 8th of January
1901 (Unattached) and joins the Somerset Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant on the 9th of March 1901. He embarks straight
away for service in South Africa with the 2nd Battalion of the Somersets, where his services over the next year are described as
being ‘Operations in the Transvaal, June 1901-31st May 1902, Operations in the Orange River Colony, May 1901-June 1901,
Queens Medal with 3 clasps’ . He is entitled to the further clasps for ‘South Africa 1901’ and ‘South Africa 1902’, but having not
been issued with them he later has copied clasps added to his medal.
Wigram is promoted to Lieutenant on the 15th of April 1904 and is subsequently employed with the West African Frontier Force
from the 2nd of July 1904 (with 2nd Bn. Northern Nigerian Regt.), he is shown at a later date as being an interpreter in Hausa as
well as Fulani Zulu languages . After over 6 years service he resigns his commission on the 25th of December 1907 and returns to
the UK where he takes up employment in the Motor Engineering industry - a key decision that would influence his future career in
Cyril Wigram marries for the first time on the 2nd of March 1912 to Mary Mabel Adams; this is a marriage that would not last the
strains of the First World War and they are divorced in 1917. With the onset of hostilities with Germany in 1914, Wigram joins the
newly founded Royal Flying Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant (on probation) with London Gazette date of the 27th of October 1914, no
doubt undertaking his training at the School of Aviation in Upavon, near Salisbury (his mother was living in this City at that time).
It is probable that his choice of Corps may have been influenced by his relative, Henry James Wigram , Mayor of Christchurch in
New Zealand and pioneer of the NZAF who was present in the UK in 1908. Wigram is further promoted to 2nd Lieutenant (Flying
Officer) on the 19th of February 1915 (LG 11/03/15), T/Captain (Flight Commander) on the 11th of June 1915 (LG 25/06/15),
Lieutenant (substantive) on the 1st of August 1915 (LG 11/10/15) and Captain on the 1st of September 1915 (LG 11/10/15). His
final promotions are to T/Major (Squadron Leader) on the 1st of May 1916 (LG 15/05/16) and Major by the 1st of April 1918.
The RFC/RAF papers (AIR 76) for Wigram are not by any means complete. The show no movements before the end of 1916, and
after that date are confusing, but appear to show that he moved around various Training Squadrons in the UK before ending up
with 38th (Home Defence) Squadron. Squadron Leader Wigram takes command of that unit when it left the UK for operations with
the BEF in France , crossing the Channel in F.E.2b’s on the 31st of May 1918 and arriving at Capelle, the strength of the Squadron
at that time was 40 officers and 160 men.
The first weeks in France were spent fitting out Aerodromes and quarters, the Squadron Leader, Flight Commanders and Adjutant
being the only men not to be occupied in huts, but having to live in bell tents. The Squadron was attached to 82nd Wing from the
3rd of June 1918, and carried out its first bombing raid with 13 machines on Ostend and Zeebrugge on the night of the 13th of
June. In order to not give away the location of the airfield at Capelle when night flying, the bombers would land on Calais beach
using flares and return to Capelle at first light.
The first casualties of the Squadron occurred on the 23rd of June, when the machine of 2/Lt. W.C. Tempest (pilot) and 2/Lt. W.
Turner (obs.) failed to return – it was later found that both men and their machine had been captured – they were not the only
men to be taken as the Squadron lost another 4 Officers to the Germans in the same manner in the following 4 weeks. The first
fatal casualty of the period in France occurred when Sgt. J. Hoskins of B Flight died of pneumonia following influenza on the 28th of
June and was buried with full military honours at Dunkirk cemetery. Only one other man (2/Lt. W. Rutledge who died of flu’ on the
30th of October 1918) would die from the Squadron before the armistice.
The Germans located the landing place of the Squadron on Calais beach on the night of the 1st of August, they dropped 2 bombs
which killed 4 cows belonging to a French farmer and completely wrecked the CO’s car – how Wigram felt about this is not
recorded. On the 11th of August the Squadron was followed and attacked by enemy fighters – 2 planes were forced down into the
sea, but both crews managed to survive. The Squadrons good luck continued on the night of the 24th of August when an enemy
bomber surprised the airfield at Capelle and dropped 3 bombs.. one fell within yards of the bomb store and another 40 yards from
the hangers. The author of the Squadron History called this ‘an extremely bad sample of Hun bombing’. 38th Squadron was
ordered to move to Beauregarde, near Calais, the following day.
On the 1st of September 1918 the Squadron was supposed to be re-fitted with Handley Page machines to replace the B.E.2’s,
most officer pilots being taken on by 214 Squadron for tuition. Owing however to a lack of these machines, the Squadron
continued to use the F.E.2’s until the end of hostilities. With the Allied advance in September, the Squadron was sent forward to
St. Pol on the 27th of September. The following day the Squadron was handed over to Captain A.R. Nock whilst Wigram departed
on leave. Wigram was admitted to hospital in Calais (35th General) on the 10th of October and was at that time removed from
command of 38th Squadron (being replaced by Major R. Oxland). In total, from May to November 1918 the Squadron completed
47 night bombing raids and flew 1,591 hours.
After sick leave (Wigram is transferred to England on the 20th of October 1918) he is sent to Command 29 T.D.S. (Training
Squadron), a unit that he takes command of on New Year’s Eve 1918. After passage through Beaulieu and 1(S) ARD (from the
29th of April onwards) Major C.C. Wigram is placed on the unemployed list on the 11th of September 1919, with a London Gazette
date of the 25th of May 1920.
After the divorce of his first wife, Wigram marries a second time on the 2nd of September 1918 to Olivia Marie (daughter of Major
General William Robinson Trueman). As Wigram was in France at the time, we can only assume this is where the ceremony
occurred. This marriage also ends in divorce, this time in 1928, there is a single child from the marriage (Olivia Marie died on the
29th of July 1970).
The third marriage occurs on the 3rd of December 1932 when Wigram marries Miss Dorothy Scott – this is not to last however as
she died in December 1937.
In 1939, with the outbreak of war, Wigram rejoins the RAF as a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve – he is given the number
76431. His movements are not known up to the 20th of March 1942, but on that date he is captured by the Japanese on the
Island of Java in the Dutch East Indies . It is almost certain that he had escaped from the island of Singapore before that fell, but
at the age of 60 it must have been a terrible shock to fall into the hands of such a cruel and ruthless enemy. Despite privations
that can only be imagined, Wigram manages to survive his internment in Java and is liberated on the 22nd of September 1945.
After a period of hospital treatment in India, Wigram returns to England in 1946. Here he marries the widow of the man who had
been renting his house in his absence (Elizabeth New, widow of J.W. New, OBE, and youngest daughter of Dr. Frederic Sondern of
New York). Information from the grandson of this lady (Rupert Felsing) states that Wigram first met Elizabeth at the funeral of her
husband – he asked her to move into his house to take care of it at that point. The marriage, although not ending in divorce, was
apparently not successful due to the effects that the confinement by the Japanese had had on his psyche.
Cyril Charles Wigram died on the 16th of May 1952 at the age of 70 in the registration district of NW Surrey.
|Cyril Charles Wigram - Somerset L.I., RFC & RAF, Served 1900-1946