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The Airmen's Stories - P/O L D Wilson


Leonard Donald Wilson was born on 31st May 1907 in Gillingham. He joined the RAF in January 1923 as an Aircraft Apprentice and passed out in December 1925. After the outbreak of war Wilson remustered as an u/t Air Gunner.

He had married Marion Forrest McClory in October 1932 in Kent.

After completing his training he was granted a commission on 20th June 1940 and joined 29 Squadron at Wellingore on 16th July. In September he was made Gunnery Leader for the squadron.

On 17th November 1940, flying with S/Ldr. WC Widdows in a Beaufighter, Wilson had a remarkable escape from death. They had been scrambled but the engines were misfiring and Widdows could not maintain his height so he ordered Wilson to bale out. Wilson unplugged his radio lead and prepared to go but could not open the rear hatch.

Thinking him gone, Widdows made his own preparations to jump but looking back he saw Wilson struggling with the hatch. The aircraft was now down to 1,000 feet. Widdows climbed back into the seat and prepared for a crash-landing. Wilson thought himself to be alone and knew the aircraft was too low.

Widdows made a good landing in a field near Walks Farm, Sleaford but a second or two before touchdown Wilson got the hatch open and put one foot out. He suffered severe injuries to the foot and after time in hospital, he rejoined the squadron but suffered a permanent limp.

He transferred to the Technical Branch (Engineering) in 1942.

Wilson retired from the RAF on 30th March 1948 as a Flight Lieutenant.

He died in June 1987 in Worthing.


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