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Heroes Of Our Time

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James Whitham

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James Whitham was born on 13th May 1919 on the Troop Ship (S.S.Scandinavia) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on its way to Canada.  His parents were Charles Henry Whitham and Lilian Craggs Whitham (nee Kirby) who married in 1915.

 

He had an older sister Constance Winifred Whitham.

 

James married Margaret Alberta Craig on 22nd February 1941 when he was just 22 years old.

 

James was a graduate of Edmonton’s Composite High School and after taking a two year course at the Institute of Art and Technology (now SAIT) in Calgary, he enlisted in the Canadian Air Force at Edmonton on 25th October, 1940 aged 21 years.  He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and later joined the 401 Squadron, RCAF, a fighter squadron which flew Hawker Hurricane aircraft until 1941 and then transitioned to the Spitfire.  

 

In dozens of dogfights James carried the Red Ensign into battle.  At 23 he won a DFC medal for his part in Operation Jubilee, a flight on 19th August 1942 over Dieppe, France which was a bloody and costly debacle called Canada’s Charge of the Light Brigade.  Just 9 days later on 28th August 1942 whilst providing air support for the landing at Dieppe James was trapped in the sights of a German Folke Wolfe pilot, and his plane exploded over the English Channel.

 

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously in September 1942.  His body is interred at grave 4, British Section, St Pierre Cemetery in Amiens, France.

 

The DFC was awarded for his actions during the Operation Jubilee.  The citation reads as follows:-

 

“This officer has completed a large number of sorties over enemy occupied territory.  He is an excellent flight commander whose fine fighting qualities have been well illustrated when leading his section in attacks on the enemy’s targets.  Besides his good work in the air, Flight Lieutenant Whitham is a tireless worker on the ground and has a proved source of inspiration to all”.

 

It was 2 years after the War ended in 1947 that his sister Constance learned the truth about her brother’s fate.

 

French civilians had recovered his ID Tags shortly after the crash and they were buried in James’s Grave at Amiens.

 

In 1947 James and his family had the honour of having a small lake at Hythe, 500 km North West of Edmonton, Alberta named after him – Lake Witham.

 

This practice was discontinued in the 1950’s and replace with commemorative labels.

 

Related Links

 

http://aircrewremembered.com/whitham-james.html

https://www.facebook.com/1greatvirtualeducationalexperience/posts/1555456894512766:0

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Page 124) of Second World War Book (via link)

 

 

War Records

 

 

 

Photos

 

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Flt Lieut James K Whitham DFC - Front row 2nd from right

 

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Commemorative scroll and medal

 

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Grave

 

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James - second from left

 

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Newspaper clipping – From the Edmonton Journal

 

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Memorial – Flight Lieutenant James Whitham is also commemorated at St George's Royal Air Force Chapel of Remembrance - Biggin Hill

 

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J. Whitham DFC and G.B. Whitney - both killed in action April 1942

© Francois Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) via Aircrew Remembered

 

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Biggin Hill Dec 1941

© Francois Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) via Aircrew Remembered

 

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Dieppe

© Francois Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) via Aircrew Remembered

 

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Group on Spitfire

© Francois Dutil (438 Squadron Archivist) via Aircrew Remembered