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  • Christina Drummond

Major Geoffrey Killigrew Wait MC, the Wiltshire Regiment (the Duke of Edinburgh's)

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1942, Major Geoffrey Killigrew Wait MC, the Wiltshire Regiment (the Duke of Edinburgh’s), was killed while on active service in the Isle of Man.

The son of Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton Killigrew Wait, the Royal Garrison Artillery, he was educated at Rugby School. Having been commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment, he was sent to France in 1915, where his father was also serving.

The following year, at the age of nineteen, he distinguished himself by his bravery during the fighting at Loos, and was awarded the Military Cross. The citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a raiding party with great gallantry and organised the different attacking parties with great skill. He set a splendid example throughout." He remained in the army after the Armistice and went on to serve in Egypt, India and China. When the second world war broke out, he was sent with the British Expeditionary Force to France, where he survived the retreat to Dunkirk. On his return he was posted to airfield protection duties on the Isle of Man.

On the day of his death he had been having lunch with colleagues, when one of them stated that he wanted to “commandeer” the Whitworth Whitley V BD417 from 296 Squadron which had recently arrived, as he had previously flown Whitley bombers on operations. Despite protests from the squadron’s pilot officer who was present, he took three of his guests with him, including Major Wait. There was a strong northerly wind, and the aircraft was lighter than the bomber version that the pilot had flown as its guns and turrets had been stripped out, and its wings would blank out the airflow over the tail and twin rudders until the tail was raised early in take-off. Witnesses described the aircraft as having slow speed with its nose high, and it was posited that the aircraft lifted into ground effect before the pilot could react. It stalled two minutes after take-off, then crashed and burned with the loss of everyone on board. Major Wait is buried in the military plot in St. Andrew’s Church in Andreas on the Isle of Man.

Geoffrey, from Barton Regis in Gloucestershire, was 45 years old and married with three children.

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