WHYTE, William Joseph, Aircraftman, Second Class (1057438) – Hampstead Norris - George Medal – awarded as per London Gazette dated 11 March 1941. Information from Spink catalogue of 19 November 2009, transcribed by Huguette Mondor Oates.

‘In October 1940, an aircraft crashed and burst into flames. Aircraftman Whyte immediately ran to the scene, in an adjoining field, and found that both the main planes and the fuselage were on fire and that ammunition was exploding. Noticing that one of the pilots appeared to move, this airman, with complete disregard for his own safety, crawled on hands and knees into the damaged cockpit and dragged him clear. Bottles of oxygen were exploding and Aircraftman Whyte received a blow on the head, temporarily lost his sight and collapsed. Unfortunately, the rescued pilot was found to be dead, otherwise this airman’s gallant action would undoubtedly have saved his life.’

1057438 Aircraftman 2nd Class William Joseph Whyte, G.M., was serving with No. 15 Operational Training Unit, R.A.F. Harwell, Berkshire, during the Second Word War when he tried to effect his gallant rescue on 17.10.1940. ‘Wellington Mk.1 Ser. No. L4259. Took off from Hampstead Norris (a satellite of R.A.F. Harwell) for circuit practice. At 1105 hours, while on the downwind leg of the circuit, the port engine burst into flames and shortly afterwards the Wellington stalled and dived into the ground. The only two aircrew on board, Flying Officer W.S. Munday and Sergeant G.T. Watt, are buried in Harwell Cemetery. Munday was an Australian serving in the R.A.F. on a Short Service Commission.’ (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Vol. 7 refers).

The George Medal was instituted by Royal Warrant dated 24.9.1940. Whyte’s medal, awarded for an action in the following month, is therefore a very early example of this rare award to the Royal Air Force.