‘Rest in peace, Uncle Clem’

Gatton RSL Sub Branch vice president Kevin Jacoby with Carol Holden, WO Wiggins’ niece. Pictures: JACOB HAYDEN

The Royal Australian Air Force held a first-of-its-kind service at RAAF Base Amberley on Friday 26 April for the lost crew of a Number 100 Squadron World War II Beaufort aircraft.

Among those honoured and remembered was Gatton-born Warrant Officer Clement Batstone Wiggins who passed away on 5 September, 1943.

Chaplain La’Mont Ferreira welcomed the families of the crew and honoured guests to the service.

“Although we have on many occasions conducted military funerals and also memorial services, we have never done both in the same service for a whole crew, particularly with the sensitivities of only finding the remains of two out of the four crew members,” he said.

“For Russell Grigg and Clement Wiggins whose remains were found, this service is only the beginning of the journey to lay them to rest.

“A repatriation and final committal will occur later in the year at Rabaul, Bita Paka War Cemetery where they will finally be laid to rest.

“It is history in the making, and how special for the whole crew and their families to be at the centre of it all.

“One aircraft, four members, 80 years, and one message, a message of sacrifice and hope.”

Clement’s nephew Keith Wiggins and niece Carol Holden were invited to speak.

“Together with my brother Graham and Carol’s brother Bill, we’re the oldest surviving relatives of Clement Wiggins,” Mr Wiggins said.

“We represent his nephews and nieces born shortly after the war who sadly never met him.

“Our recollections of Clem are based on photos, letters and anecdotes passed on verbally from his parents William and Isadora Wiggins, his sister Audrey and his brother Mervyn.”

Mrs Holden thanked the History and Heritage branch of the RAAF for the ceremony.

“Talking to the families of the other men who were here today and learning some stories from them about their mateship has meant a great deal to me,” she said.

“Our heartfelt thank also go to Dr Andrew Forrest, whose endeavours led to the finding of A9-186, and to the recovery of the remains of our Uncle Clem.

Gatton RSL Sub Branch vice president Kevin Jacoby said he was grateful to attend the ceremony.

“The service was quite incredible, it was really good to see the professionalism of the RAAF, especially the folding of the flags and handing them off to the families,” Mr Jacoby said.

“Catching up to them afterwards at the wake was quite humbling.

“I spoke to Keith just before we left and we were having a good chat about how his father [Mervyn Wiggins] was in Milne Bay at the same time as his uncle, there was about a four week crossover.

“I imagine two brothers in the same theatre of war, even though they’re different services, they would have made every effort to catch up while they were over there.”

Mr Wiggins said Clement had so much unrealised potential.

“Yet, he was prepared to risk it all and he made the supreme sacrifice for this country,” he said.

“We will be forever grateful that after 80 years we now have knowledge of his final resting place.

“Rest in peace, Uncle Clem.”