b. 09/04/1907 Consett, County Durham. d. 12/05/1953 Roehampton, Surrey.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 09-10/1940 various locations.
Wilson “Bombs” Hodgson Charlton (1907-1953) was born on 9th April 1907 in Lanchester, County Durham, the eldest son of Matthew and Catherine Charlton (nee Hodgson). He was baptised on the 8th May 1907 in Sacriston at St Peter’s Church. His parents had married in 1906 and his father was a chemist, possibly in industry. Wilson had a younger brother Joseph and two sisters named Bertha and Marian. In 1926, Wilson decided to follow a career in the services, and enlisted with the RAF.
In 1932, whilst stationed at RAF Worthy Down in Hampshire, he married Alice Walter at Christ Church, Folkestone, Kent. They went on to have a daughter, Sheila Marion Charlton. She was born on 7th September 1938, whilst Wilson was stationed at RAF Caversfield, Oxfordshire. On the outbreak of World War II, he was placed on Special Duty bomb disposal, hence the nickname he earnt of “Bombs”.
Between the months of September and October 1940 in multiple locations, at the height of the Blitz, he was heavily involved in dealing with over 200 unexploded bombs. As a result on 21st January 1941, he was awarded the George Cross for his actions. Less than two months later, he had left England for a Far East posting in Singapore, leaving for China to study Japanese bombs and mines. Whilst there he brought back with him a wide range of bomb fuzes removed from unexploded bombs. He was also able to arrange for a number of Japanese bombs to be delivered to Singapore.
In Java, as a Flying Officer, he ran an organisation of Bomb Disposal squads before being captured. He was in a Japanese POW camp in Java from 1942-1945 though he and 12 others managed to escape into the jungle before recapture. On his return from captivity he was appointed Senior RAF Bomb Disposal Officer iin the UK, and finally was able to receive his George Cross at Buckingham Palace in December 1945. Charlton would go on to serve a total of 27 and a half years in the RAF retiring as a Squadron Leader in 1953.
After the war, there was a spell as an Instructor in the Orpington Sub-Division Civil Defence Corps, and in the last part of his career, he and his family were left in the situation of being homeless. The story made the newspapers as it was seen as scandalous that a war hero who saved many homes from bombs was now left homeless himself. Sadly, on leaving the RAF, he was not able to enjoy a long retirement, as following a short illness, he passed away on 12th May 1953, aged 46, in Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, Sussex. His final resting place is not known.
His medal group including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, and RAF Long Service & Good Conduct Medal were sold at auction in July 1994 and they are now part of the Ashcroft Collection, and on display in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHRCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: UNKNOWN.