Badge Number: S49693 , Sub Branch: Unley

WIGGINS, Albert Lloyd

Service Number: 407541
Enlisted: 9 November 1940
Last Rank: Wing Commander
Last Unit: No. 455 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Middleton, SA, 24 September 1916
Home Town: Middleton, Alexandrina, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Auctioneer and Valuer - Evans and Clarke
Died: Natural Causes, Adelaide, South Australia , 27 December 2015, aged 99 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

9 Nov 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Squadron Leader, SN 407541
9 Nov 1940: Involvement Leading Aircraftman, SN 407541, Aircrew Training Units, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
9 Nov 1940: Enlisted Aircraftman, SN 407541, Aircrew Training Units, Adelaide
1 Nov 1941: Involvement Pilot Officer, SN 407541, Aircrew Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
26 Oct 1942: Involvement Flight Lieutenant, SN 407541, No. 38 Squadron (RAF), Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
10 Nov 1942: Honoured Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre, "Bombing attack on enemy supply convoy, Tobruk"
26 Sep 1944: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, Air War NW Europe 1939-45, Gallant leadership on numerous sorties against the enemy.
9 May 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Squadron Leader, SN 407541, No. 455 Squadron (RAAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
26 Jan 1946: Honoured Mention in Dispatches, Air War NW Europe 1939-45
13 Sep 1946: Discharged Wing Commander, SN 407541


SINK THE ‘TERGESTEA’ from an article published HERE -

The afternoon of October 26 was fine, with good visibility and little cloud. Three crews of Wellington torpedo-bombers, the leader Flt Lt Wiggins in HX633, Plt Off R H Bertran in HF595, and Sgt Viles in HF912, were briefed on a desperate attempt to stop the Tergestea reaching the safety of Tobruk harbour.

Flt Lt Wiggins, 25, was from Middleton, South Australia, where he had worked as an auctioneer. He had enlisted in the RAAF in November 1940, and after going through the Empire Air Training Scheme, was posted to 38 Squadron in North Africa. The unit’s Wellington bombers were armed with two torpedoes each, while some were radar equipped to locate and attack targets at night from very low level. It was a role described by Wiggins as ‘not for the faint-hearted’.

That description was particularly apt for the mission on that fateful afternoon in October 1942. To evade interception by German fighters and keep below enemy radar, the plan was for the three aircraft to first fly due north out to sea for about 60 miles, trying to keep as low as 100ft. Then they were to turn west and fly approximately parallel to the coast until they reached position some 60 miles northeast of Tobruk. At that point the formation was to turn onto a southwest heading and fly directly towards Tobruk to take the enemy air defences by surprise. By making their attacking runs out of a darkening sky, it was hoped to catch the Tergestea before it could dock.

At 1540hrs Flt Lt Wiggins led the trio of aircraft into the air and brought them down towards the waves as they sped north out into the Mediterranean. If their raid was successful, it would paralyse Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika.


Helped by excellent work from his navigator, Wiggins spotted the Tergestea only a few miles from Tobruk. In the first dusk attack ever attempted by 38 Squadron, the three aircraft headed straight for the vessel a tanker/freighter carrying cargo that included 1,000 tons of petrol, and 1,000 tons of ammunition. Wiggins’ bombers came in with fading light behind them, whereas their target stood out against the sun setting in the west. There were many destroyers escorting the tanker, but they were taken completely by surprise. It was not until the aircraft were beginning their run less than two miles from their target that frantic signaling took place from the escorting warships to the tanker. Ignoring the flak, Wiggins held his strike force dead on course.

It was the last chance for the RAF to sink the tanker before it reached Tobruk harbour and its anti-aircraft defences – a second bombing run without the element of surprise, and in the dark, would almost certainly be unsuccessful. All three Wellingtons dropped two torpedoes each at a distance of around 500- 600 yards from the target. Of the six torpedoes launched, three ran well, striking the Tergestea and causing an enormous explosion. After dropping his salvo Wiggins chose to take his climbing aircraft straight over the top of the Tergestea attracting the greatest concentration of anti-aircraft fire from the escort destroyers. Despite his bomber suffering multiple hits, Wiggins was able to maintain his escape flight beyond the range of the defending guns. Plt Off Bertran banked his Wellington away to starboard and received lighter anti-aircraft fire. The RAF crews observed a huge column of black smoke, surging up from the Tergestea to an estimated 3,000ft. After releasing its torpedoes, Sgt Viles’ aircraft was seen to stagger, probably from receiving fire from the destroyers, and was last observed breaking away to port. Both Wiggins and Bertran completed their return flights safely to base by 2200hrs. A search sortie that night reported that there was no sign of Viles’ Wellington nor of the Tergestea, which must have sunk. Nothing remained of the convoy except for the tanker Proserpina, now settling low in the water and still burning after the earlier attack.


The same evening, unaware of the attack on the Tergestea, Rommel wrote to his wife Lucia that the loss of the Proserpina made the supply situation critical. The next day, after hearing of the confirmed loss of Tergestea and its fuel supplies, Rommel wrote to Lucia again – in near defeatist mood he doubted he would survive. Starved of fuel, running out of other supplies, and powerless to withstand the Eighth Army’s renewed attack in Operation Supercharge, Rommel ordered a general retreat on November 4


The raid that helped turn the tide against The Desert Fox

IT was October 26, 1942 and 25-year-old RAAF Flight Lieutenant Lloyd Wiggins led a flight of three Wellington bombers on a mission that would change the course of the North Africa campaign and cripple Germany’s notorious “desert fox” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

As the Tobruk campaign reached its climax and Rommel prepared his depleted army for a last stand against General Montgomery’s vastly superior force, there was one vital ingredient missing from his battle plan — fuel.

The German tanks were running dry as the Battle of El Alamein began and just a few kilometres off the port of Tobruk the Italian supply ship Tergestea prepared to land and unload its cargo of precious fuel and ammunition.

After hugging the coast from their base near the Suez Canal at just 100 feet above the water to maintain the element of surprise, Wiggins and his comrades from the RAF’s Number 38 Squadron spotted the ship and climbed out to sea to attack into the setting sun.

As they sped towards their target Destroyer escorts detected the low flying torpedo bombers and unleashed a withering shield of anti-aircraft fire as Wiggins and his crewmates launched six torpedos from about 500 metres from the doomed vessel.

Three struck home and the Tergestea was left a smouldering, sinking wreck. This was the last straw for Rommel whose final retreat began soon after.

After launching his weapons Flight Lieutenant Wiggins, from Adelaide, took his Wellington aircraft straight over the top of the enemy supply ship attracting the majority of anti-aircraft fire as the two other bombers completed their runs.

He sustained numerous hits but was able to maintain his climb out of range of the enemy guns. The second aircraft also escaped but the third was badly damaged and was not seen again.

The Wellington bombers had been equipped with the latest radar technology making them lethal night raiders.
“We had the element of surprise on our side,” Mr Wiggins told News Corp Australia. “They didn’t spot us until the last minute.”

Showing 2 of 2 stories


 Albert Lloyd WIGGINS, DSO DFC (1916-2015)

Lloyd Wiggins was born in the coastal community of Middleton, south of Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, on 24 September 1916, to Thomas Herbert and Beatrice Mary (nee Thomas) Wiggins.

Lloyd enlisted into the RAAF on 9 November 1940 at the height of a massive recruiting campaign to find and train the aircrews that would be needed to win the war then raging in Europe.  Britain had just triumphed in the Battle of Britain but was being subjected to 'the Blitz' and its scattered Dominions and colonies answered the call for trained manpower.

After undergoing training through the Empire Air Training Scheme, Lloyd found himself in the Mediterranean rather than in the UK, posted to No 38 Squadron RAF, part of the so-called 'Desert Air Force' and flying the Vickers Wellington medium twin engined bomber, nicknamed 'the Wimpy' by its crews. 

Their job was variously Maritime Patrol and tactical strike.  The Wellingtons were armed with two torpedoes and augmented by radar equipped aircraft to enable them to locate and attac targets at night from very low level.  Not for the faint-hearted.  Lloyd and his crew were to distinguish themselves and play a critical role in the Allied victory in North Africa. See attached 'Personal Story'.  For the Tergestea raid he was awarded the DSO.  This attack is credited by many commentators as having a critical role in the defeat of Rommel's Afrika Corps becasue it denied  the Axis forces crtical fuel supplies at a crucial time.

Lloyd was later assigned to 455 Squadron in England, flying the fast and heavily armed Bristol Beaufighter twin engined strike aircraft. He was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service with 455 Squadron.

While serving in the UK he met and later married Thelma Wigfield, a flight officer with the Women's Auxillary Airforce.  They married in 1944.

He finished the war on the Headquarters of the 'Dallachy Wing' of three Commonwealth (404 RCAF, 455 RAAF and 489 RNZAF)  Beaufighter Squadrons operating over the North Sea and Norway.

After the war, Lloyd returned to Adelaide and resumed his vocation as an auctioneer and valuer.  He and Thelma raised four children.

He established and ran his own Auction house, Lloyd Wiggins and Co.  He was also engaged in rural valuation. After flying to an auction on one occasion, in a light aircraft, he obtained his private pilot's license and took great pleasure in flying his own twin engined aircraft to all parts of Australia.  He served on Stirling Council for years.  He was a lifelong member of the RSL, and a memberand one-time President of Legacy.  He was a stalwart of the Naval Military & Airforce Club of SA.  Although slowed down somewhat by a mild stroke, the effects of which frustrated him for a time, he attended a regular Thursday lunch with his colleagues right up until the time of his death.

Lloyd exemplified that most notable generation of men and women who at a very young age had put their lives on the line in the service of their country, demonstrating resolve tenacity and compassion to a degree that in contemporary times can only be described as awe inspiring.


'Advertiser' Article       extract......

Mr Wiggins, who returned to Adelaide and raised a large family, regards himself as a lucky man and with 80 wartime sorties under his belt he has good reason for such a view.

He spent most of the rest of the war war flying from England with the RAAF’s 455 Squadron in Coastal Command, culminating in the role of Wing Commander (Flying) of the RAF Group that included 455 Squadron.  

With typical modesty he regards the attack on Tergestea with the RAF’s 38 Squadron as the highlight of his war.

“There was nothing to it really, we just attacked the ship and it blew up, that was about it really,” he said.

“It was just another mission.”


Compiled by Steve Larkins May 2016