b. 21/12/1921 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 28/11/2001 Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland.
William Reid was born in Baillieston, near Glasgow, on 21 December 1921 the son of a blacksmith. He was educated at Swinton Primary School and Coatbridge Higher Grade School and studied metallurgy for a time, but then applied to join the RAF. After training in Canada, he received his wings and was a sergeant when he was commissioned as a pilot officer on probation in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 19 June 1942. He then trained on twin-engined Airspeed Oxfords at Little Rissington before moving to the Operational Training Unit at RAF North Luffenham. There, his skill as a pilot led to his being selected as an instructor, flying the Vickers Wellington, albeit with the promise of a posting to a Avro Lancaster heavy bomber unit. He was promoted to flying officer on 19 December 1942.
The posting did not materialise until July 1943, when he was sent to 1654 Conversion Unit, RAF Wigsley, near Newark-on-Trent, where he flew his first operational mission as second pilot, in a Lancaster of 9 Squadron, in a raid on Mönchengladbach. In September he was posted to 61 Squadron at RAF Syerston, Newark, to commence Lancaster bombing operations, and flew seven sorties to various German cities before the raid on Düsseldorf.
On the night of 3 Novemberrd 1943, on the way to Düsseldorf, the windscreen of Flight Lieutenant Reid's Lancaster (serial LM360) was shattered by fire from a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the gun turrets and cockpit badly damaged. Saying nothing of his multiple injuries, he continued on his mission and soon afterwards the bomber was attacked again by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190. His navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally wounded. He was wounded again, as was the flight engineer, while the Lancaster received more serious damage. The starboard part of the tailplane had been lost. He decided to carry on, rather than turn back. No-one else on board could have flown the plane in a straight line, let alone with all the damage sustained. Reid modestly claimed that his main reason for pressing on was that turning back would have involved flying through or across the following bomber stream, with a real danger of mid-air collision. Pressing on to his target, Reid released the bombs, then set course for home. On the way back to Syerston, he saw the searchlights of RAF Shipdham, a USAAF-operated base in Norfolk. Despite being wounded and suffering from loss of blood, Reid succeeded in landing his plane - though the undercarriage collapsed and the aircraft slid along the runway. The wireless operator died in Shipdham's medical centre but the rest of the crew survived.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOLD TO PRIVATE BIDDER AT AUCTION IN 2009.
BURIAL PLACE: CRIEFF CEMETERY, PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND.
Bailleston Library Memorial to William Reid VC
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych