The Airmen's Stories - P/O E C J Wakeham
Ernest Cecil John Wakeham was born at Yelland Farm, Rattery, South Devon on 20th February 1921. He attended South Brent primary school and then King Edward VI Grammar School at Totnes. A keen sportsman, he was in the rugby team and won a rifle shooting prize.
After studying at South Devon Technical college in Torquay he joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939, though as a farmer’s son he would have been in a reserved occupation and not likely to be called up.
His training was carried out at 11 FTS Shawbury, he gained his wings on 22nd July 1939 and passed out with a Distinguished rating. Along with some pilot colleagues he returned to Rattery on leave to help with the hay harvest. He joined 145 Squadron at Croydon on 23rd October 1939. Then equipped with Blenheims, 145 began to receive Hurricanes in March 1940.
In May the squadron began ferrying Hurricanes to France and supporting the squadrons there. On the 18th Wakeham destroyed a He111 and damaged another over Dunkirk and on the 19th destroyed another.
On the 27th he damaged a Me110 but was stunned by a glancing bullet whilst attacking and lost consciousness. Wakeham came to after falling 5,000 feet and returned to the attack.
Later in the day he was shot down in Hurricane P3314, making a forced-landing between Ostend and Dunkirk. He joined the thousands of troops on the beaches and was evacuated by ship. He returned to Yelland Farm to convalesce and became a regular dart player at the local Church House Inn.
Wakeham was awarded the DFC (gazetted 21st June 1940).
Back with 145 Squadron, on 7th July he shared in destroying a Do17, on the 11th claimed a He111, on the 19th shared a Do17, on the 29th shared a Ju88 and on 1st August claimed a Hs126.
Wakeham failed to return from an action with Ju87s and Me110s over a convoy south of the Isle of Wight on 8th August in Hurricane P2957.
Wakeham was 19. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 10.
A house of Churchill Boys School, Salisbury, Zimbabwe bears his name.
He is also commemorated on the WW2 memorial tablet in Rattery church. Here, on 8th August 2010, 70 years to the day since his loss, his descendant Matthew Wakeham was christened.
Above photograph and additional research courtesy of Peter Smerdon via Valerie Wakeham.
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner