Wheatcroft, Nigel Ronald
He was the eldest son of Kenneth Douglas Wheatcroft and Harriet Dorothea Wheatcroft (daughter of H.C. Brooke-Taylor, solicitor, of The Hall, Bakewell). They lived at Ecclestone Hall, Idridgehay, Derbyshire. He was the brother of Malcolm Kenneth Wheatcroft (C1934-1939).
As a junior he showed great promise as an athlete, particularly as a bowler, but an unspecified illness in the middle of his time put him out of action for a year, and he never quite realized his early promise. He was a useful house match player at both cricket and football, and was a House Prefect. An appreciation of him (by “U.C.”) appeared in The Times in February 1941:
“Young, with all the graces of youth, high-spirited, charming, and gifted with abilities of a high order, he gave every promise of devoted service to his country and his generation during the years which lay ahead of him. He was a happy soul, how happy one did not perhaps realize until one knew him well, and this happiness came to him in great measure through the success which rewarded his efforts, whether at work or play. He loved his work, and thoroughly enjoyed his games, but I think the picture which lingers in the memory, where his enjoyment reached its peak, was one of him on his skis, with the background of Swiss sun and sky set in the white lining of the snow-fields. He adored skiing, and it was here that his high courage, tempered by a stern determination to excel, brought all his qualities into full play. Nor must one forget his music, which was such a joy, nor the picture of him seated at the piano, surrounded by his friends, playing, almost by the hour, any tune which their fancy called for.”
He left Winchester in 1938 for Trinity College, Cambridge to read Modern Languages and also attended courses at Heidelberg and Munich, spending a year in Germany.
Days before the outbreak of war, being a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron, he was recalled from France, where he was then staying. In November 1939 he was commissioned as a pilot into the RAFVR and joined 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, flying the night-fighter variant, Bristol Blenheim IF.
604 was based at Manston from May 15th 1940 until June 20th, when the squadron moved to Northolt. The unit then moved again to Gravesend on July 3rd and finally to Middle Wallop on July 27th, gradually re-equipping with the two-seater night-fighter, Beaufighter IF from late September onwards. 604 Squadron – one of whose flight commanders was the famous Squadron Leader John ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham – was one of the first four squadrons to obtain the radar-equipped Beaufighter for night interception work.
Wheatcroft was killed in an accident whilst on night patrol on 26th November 1940. His Blenheim IV L6728 lost a propeller and although he tried to nurse it back to Middle Wallop, he did not manage to clear the trees on Danebury Hill, near Stockbridge and he was killed in the ensuing crash. His radio operator was killed with him.
Wheatcroft had been promoted to Flying Officer in October 1940. He was twenty-one years old, and rests in St. James’ churchyard, Idridgehay.
- Surname: Wheatcroft
- Forenames or initials: Nigel Ronald
- House: F
- Years in School: 1932-1938
- Rank: Flying Officer
- Regiment: County of Middlesex Squadron, RAF
- Date of Birth: 21st July 1919
- Date of Death: 26th November 1940
- How Died: Killed in Flying Accident
- Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: St James Churchyard, Idridgehay, Derbyshire