Flight Lieutenant Bill Reid's VC

A Victoria Cross, the highest and most valued British and Commonwealth war decoration, is coming up for auction in London on November 19 (Sold for a World record £348,000)

The VC will auction alongside a number of other medals all awarded to one man: Flight Lieutenant William 'Bill' Reid.


Section of the documentary World at War with Bill Reid interviewed
(1.10-4.40)

Born in Glasgow in 1921 and joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1941, Reid was immediately recognised as a talented pilot - and would receive Britain's highest award for valour for his extraordinary determination to complete a mission against all the odds.

In 1943, he was assigned a bombing raid over Düsseldorf in his Lancaster. While passing over the Dutch coast, Reid's plane was attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf 110, shattering his cockpit.

Reid was injured in the head, hands and especially shoulder by fragments of shell, and was lucky not to be blinded by shards of Perspex from the windscreen which cut into his eyelids.

The plane nosedived for 2,000 feet, before Reid regained control. The icy gale which rushed through the broken cockpit temporarily slowed his bleeding. When his crew called forward to ask if he was OK, he replied "Yes, I feel all right", seeing no sense in panicking them.

Among other damage, the plane now yawed heavily to one side, and Reid had to press the left rudder hard for the rest of the flight. Not long after the first attack, a Focke Wulf FW 190 attacked, killing the plane's navigator and wounding the rest of the crew including Reid again.

The plane's oxygen and hydraulic systems were damaged, and the compass was knocked out, meaning that Reid had to navigate partly by the stars, but he still pressed on to Düsseldorf.

The load was successfully dropped, and Reid managed to navigate the plane back to Wittering's runway, despite his wounds reopening, with the assistance of his crew, especially wounded engineer Norris.

Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross, and Norris the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. He later performed several successful bombing missions in 1944, before July when his plane was destroyed by a bomb dropped from a fellow Lancaster above.

 

William Bill Reid Victoria Cross VC
Bill Reid's VC, 1939-45 and Air Crew Europe Stars, War Medal and commemorative medals

Reid and one other crew member managed to bail out to become Prisoners of War, while the other five crew members died. He was held at Sagan before being released in May 1945.

 

 

He was married in 1952 - only mentioning his VC to his wife after they were married -and continued flying. He also took a BSc in Agriculture and became Vice-President of the Aircrew Association. Reid died in 2001 aged 79.

Bill Reid's Victoria Cross, along with his other medals: a 1939-1945 Star, War Medal and Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany Bar alongside Elizabeth II Coronation and Jubilee medals will be auctioned by Spink.

The estimated price is £180,000-220,000, representing a once in a lifetime opportunity to possess an example of this rare medal with an extraordinary story of bravery attached to it (UPDATE: Sold for a World record £348,000).

 

 

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