Robert (BOB) James Clarendon Whittle, DFM.
ED: Yesterday I posted a story about Frank Whittle, today I wish to post a story about my uncle, Bob Whittle, who was a WWII fighter pilot, we are all very proud of Uncle Bob not only because of his actions in WWII but also for his many contributions to the Tweed River district over many years. I am now researching to see if Frank and Bob Whittle are related.
Robert (BOB) James Clarendon Whittle was born in Brisbane on 10 July 1914. He worked as a chemist in Murwillumbah before he enlisted in the RAAF in April 1940. He was sent to the Middle East after training and posted to 250SQN (RAF) on 5 May 1941. Seeing much action over the Western Desert, his aerial claims rose steadily over the following months until by mid- December, he had amassed 9 Aircraft destroyed, 1 shared destroyed, 2 probables and 2 damaged.
Bob received a DFM for his service with 250SQN. The citation saying much about his character: “The airman has proved himself to be a courageous and skilful fighter pilot. In one engagement when his formation was fighting against a superior number of enemy aircraft, Sgt Whittle destroyed two, probably destroyed another and damaged a further two of the enemy’s aircraft. His determination is such that on one occasion after being shot down, he walked twenty miles during the night, re-joining his Squadron for duty the next day. During an engagement two days later, Sgt Whittle was wounded in the foot and arm and his aircraft was badly damaged but flew back to base where he made a successful forced landing. Within two days, Sgt Whittle resumed operational flying. He destroyed at least seven enemy aircraft.”
He served briefly with 730 Training Unit before his return to Australia in April 1942. He was posted to 86SQN in early 1943, flying from Merauke in Dutch New Guinea. He was promoted to Flight Leader in September and Commanding Officer on 17 December. Here he would make his final claims, downing a Zeke and sharing in the destruction of a Betty near Cape Valsch.
In June 1944 he left the squadron and served as an instructor until his discharge on 4 December 1945.
Bob Whittle is credited with a total of 14 kills during his service. After the war he returned to his pre-war profession and helped form the local Aero Club, as an instructor in 1946. A fifth-generation Pharmacist in the Whittle family, Bob’s father Mr F. C. Whittle established his first pharmacy in Murwillumbah in 1910, about where the Imperial Hotel of 2012 is located today but later bought a single storey building (later a second storey was added) at 108 Main Street, Murwillumbah, where it was operated as Whittle’s Pharmacy until it was a sold in 1992.
Bob had been a member of the Rotary Club of Murwillumbah for 50 years and served one year as its President. His long association with the Tweed River Historical Society (which later became the Murwillumbah Historical Society after the Tweed Heads Historical Society formed its own entity) earned him a Life Membership of the Murwillumbah Historical Society. Bob was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and qualified from Brisbane Pharmacy College and that year he commenced work with his father.
During his working life, he lived in Murwillumbah with his wife Frances and raised 5 children. He was a very active and interested citizen in all matters relating to the town and district. His meritorious active service record and involvement with the local Aero Club was recognized when Tweed Shire Council named its light aircraft landing strip, the Bob Whittle Airfield. So much of the recorded history of the Tweed and the thousands of artefacts held in the Murwillumbah Museum collection are there as the result of the keen interest and selfless years of devotion to the preservation of this invaluable record of the Tweed’s early history and can certainly be attributed to Bob Whittle and his family.