Having volunteered for flying duty at the outbreak of War and completing his Pilot training in Canada, his subsequent and brilliant operational career brought him to the rank of Wing Commander whereupon, as holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he assumed command of 51 Squadron at Snaith before founding 578 Squadron, based at Burn, North Yorkshire, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
David Wilkerson, affectionately known as 'Wilkie' is remembered as an inspired leader who possessed fine qualities of humanity, humour and understanding which endeared him to those who had the privilege of knowing and associating with him on or off duty.
He was a youth leader and held a warrant in the 17th Epping Forest Scout Group, South Woodford, Essex.
It was surprisingly difficult to establish the events leading to this tragedy for official sources were vague, if not unapproachable. Once Rednal had been identified as the airfield of departure on that fateful morning, it was a matter of cold calling on people in the district in the hope of finding someone who knew about the awful event or, better still, was on hand at the time. Fortunately, witnesses were found, which enabled work on a memorial to proceed with certainty. The owner of Tedsmore Hall was completely unaware of the awful event which had occurred on her land fifty years before but on learning the details she readily made a plot of land available, on the precise spot where David was killed, and gave permission for a memorial to be erected thereon.
With the benefit of local assistance work commenced by clearing the undergrowth, removing dangerous tree branches and rebuilding collapsed stone walling. The use of hardwood for the memorial Cross seemed entirely appropriate, given such magnificent woodland setting. A large baulk of Australian Jarrah, salvaged from a church bell frame, conveniently provided the material. In due course, the finished Cross was transported to site, lowered into the prepared foundation and set solidly into mass concrete. Gardening work completed the operation. The citation plate, made of stainless steel with etched enamel filled lettering reads
WING COMMANDER D S S WILKERSON DSO. DFC. RAFVR
DIED HERE FOR HIS COUNTRY ON 16 SEPTEMBER 1944 AGED 27 YEARS
A survivor of 46 hazardous operations against the enemy as pilot of a Halifax bomber, he was tragically killed when travelling as a passenger in a Baltimore aircraft on a domestic flight which crashed into this hillside, after taking off from Rednal airfield. He was an inspired leader who possessed the qualities of humanitiy, good humour and understanding, which endeared him to everybody who had the priviledge of knowing him. The United States Air Force posthumously awarded him the Silver Star for Gallantry
HUGH CAWDRON MADE AND ERECTED THIS CROSS IN MEMORY OF HIS FRIEND AND BROTHER SCOUT
On 3 October 1996 over seventy people from all over the country, crowded into the narrow lane, twenty four of them veterans of 578 Squadron led by the Rev. Owain Williams, a former navigator, who conducted the service of Dedication. Also present were a senior officer from RAF Shawbury - whose helicopter crews had daily hovered over the construction site to review progress – and the Chief Scout, who, with Owain, gave impressive and moving orations. The weather kindly allowed the three helicopters make their concluding fly-over exactly on time, thus bringing the service to a fitting close.
We were grateful for the warmth of welcome provided afterwards at Tedsmore Hall, where talk of David Wilkerson and his 578 Squadron brought memories to veterans and insight to the locals.
Over the past years the Memorial has weathered beautifully, due, no doubt, to annual applications of teak oil, whilst the ivy clad surrounding ground remains tidy and colourful, the result of regular maintenance by local people who care. Although situated in a remote location, the presence of the Memorial is well established in the area and visited by school children, people interested in local history, walkers and others.
In 2012 the Hampson family of local farmers kindly undertook future Guardianship of the Cross.