Arthur Vigers

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Arthur Whitehair Vigers
Nickname(s) Wiggy
Born (1890-01-20)20 January 1890
Isleworth, Middlesex, England
Died September 1968 (aged 77–78)
Bunbury, Western Australia
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1908–1919
Rank Captain
Unit London Cable Signal Company
No. 15 Squadron RFC
No. 87 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
Awards Military Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Other work Commercial pilot in Australia and served in the RAAF during World War II

Captain Arthur Whitehair Vigers MC, DFC (20 January 1890 – September 1968) was a British World War I flying ace credited with 14 aerial victories.[1] He was the third ranking of the 27 aces who flew the Sopwith Dolphin,[2] and the highest scoring ace in his squadron.[3]

Early life and background[edit]

Vigers was born in Isleworth, Middlesex, the son of Thomas William Vigers and Margaret Mary (née Whitehair), and was educated at Mill Hill School, London. In 1908 he enlisted into the London Cable Signal Company, part of the London District Signals, a Territorial Force unit of the Royal Engineers Signal Service.[4]

World War I[edit]

Vigers was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the London Cable Signal Company on 5 September 1914,[5] and on 9 December 1914 he was one of the many officers from the London Signal Companies who were seconded to the regular army.[6]

On 11 July 1915 Vigers was appointed a temporary lieutenant.[7] He received a mention in despatches for "gallant and distinguished service in the field" from Field-Marshal John French, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in France on 30 November 1915,[8] and on 14 January 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross.[9]

On 12 May 1917 Vigers was seconded for duty with Royal Flying Corps,[10] being appointed a flying officer (observer), with seniority from 1 February 1917.[11] He flew as an observer in No. 15 Squadron RFC,[4] and was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1917.[12] He then trained as a pilot, and was appointed a flying officer on 16 November 1917.[1][13]

He was posted to No. 87 Squadron RAF to fly the Sopwith Dolphin single-seat fighter. He gained his first victories on 3 June 1918, shooting down two enemy fighter aircraft. On 10 August he accounted for three more, taking his total to five and making him an ace. He shot down three in August,[4] and was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain on 1 September,[14] going on to account for six more aircraft that month.[1][4]

On 1 November 1918 Vigers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read:

Lieutenant Arthur Whitehair Vigers, MC.
"A gallant and skilful airman. During the recent operations whilst leading a formation of eight machines he saw a group of twelve Fokker biplanes; without hesitation he attacked them, and, in the engagement, crashed two and shot down another out of control. Since June last he has crashed three enemy aeroplanes and driven down three out of control."[15]

Vigers remained with No. 87 Squadron after the Armistice, receiving a second mention in despatches from Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig on 16 March 1919,[16] and was again appointed a temporary captain on 1 May 1919.[17]

List of aerial victories[edit]

Combat record[4]
No. Date/Time Aircraft/
Serial No.
Opponent Result Location Notes
1 3 June 1918
@ 1835
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker Dr.I Destroyed Bray
2 Albatros D.V Out of control Bray–Herbécourt
3 10 August 1918
@ 0920
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker D.VII Destroyed Misery
4 Fokker D.VII Destroyed
5 Fokker D.VII Out of control
6 21 August 1918
@ 1745
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker D.VII Destroyed Biefvillers
7 Fokker D.VII Out of control
8 25 August 1918
@ 1800
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker D.VII Out of control Velu Wood
9 3 September 1918
@ 1830
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker D.VII Destroyed Épinoy
10 Fokker D.VII Out of control
11 16 September 1918
@ 1030
Sopwith Dolphin
Rumpler C Destroyed North of Cambrai
12 22 September 1918
@ 0910
Sopwith Dolphin
Rumpler C Out of control North-east of Bapaume Shared with Lieutenant Ross MacDonald.
13 23 September 1918
@ 1745
Sopwith Dolphin
Fokker D.VII Out of control North-east of Cambrai
14 23 September 1918
@ 1816
Fokker D.VII Out of control Bourlon Wood

Post-war career[edit]

Vigers left the RAF and moved to Australia, where he worked for the Sopwith Larkin Aviation Company, which had been founded by Herbert Joseph Larkin, who had served alongside Vigers as a flight commander in No. 87 Squadron.[18] On 15 December 1919 Vigers announced his intention to make the first flight over the Bass Strait, from Melbourne to Launceston, Tasmania, in a Sopwith Gnu.[19][20] However, he was forestalled by Lieutenant Arthur Leonard Long, who flew his Boulton Paul P.9 biplane from Stanley, Tasmania, to Melbourne on the 17th.[21][22]

On 26 December 1919 Vigers took part in an air display organised by the Larkin Company at the Epsom racecourse, Mordialloc, to an audience of about 10,000. It began with Vigers, flying a Sopwith Dove, in a mock dogfight with Captain Roy King, in a Sopwith Gnu. There was then an air race between Vigers, King, and Long, in his Boulton Paul. The race, the first in Australia, was flown over the 37 miles (60 km) from the racecourse to a balloon tethered over Wirths' Park and back. Vigers won, but owing to a misunderstanding regarding the finish, Long and Vigers re-flew the race, with Long winning this time. Captain Gordon Campbell Wilson then made a parachute descent from the Gnu at about 2,000 feet (610 m), and Vigers made a mock attack on the racecourse, and gave an exhibition of aerobatics.[23][24]

On 2 January 1920 Vigers took off from Glen Huntly to fly to various resorts around Port Phillip. In the passenger seat was Phillip Roff Nunn, an 18-year-old student from Elsternwick. However, on approaching Mornington, his engine failed. Vigers attempted a forced landing, but in avoiding crowds on the ground, hit telegraph wires, flipping the aircraft over, and smashing it into the ground. The two men were extricated from the wreckage, but Nunn died from his injuries a few days later. At the inquest it was proved that a fractured piston had caused the accident, and that Vigers was in no way to blame.[25][26][27] By June Vigers had recovered from his injuries, and took his Sopwith Gnu with three passengers to an altitude of 15,200 feet (4,600 m), setting an Australian record for an aeroplane carrying more than one person.[28][29] In August Vigers set off in his Sopwith Gnu on a two-week tour of Victoria with Howard Jolley and Dr J. Webb from the Life Insurance Company of Australia as passengers.[30] However, on 2 August, while taking off from Kerang, the aircraft crashed. Fortunately no one was injured.[31]

In mid-March 1923 Vigers flew the last of the Avro aeroplanes built by the Australian Aircraft & Engineering Company from Mascot to Melbourne.[32] In May Vigers was surveying an air route from Adelaide to Sydney via Melbourne on behalf of the Defence Department. He and Air Mechanic G. Held successfully flew their Airco DH.9 from Sydney to Adelaide,[33] but on the return flight crashed at Jerrawa near Yass.[34] The aircraft was wrecked, but both men escaped with only minor injuries.[35]

Vigers also worked for the QANTAS Aerial Mail Service, until leaving in May 1924.[36][37]

In November 1925 he was working for the West Australian Mail Service, taking part in the transportation by air of a body from Fitzroy Crossing on a 2,000-mile (3,200 km) flight to Perth, Western Australia, for burial.[38]

Vigers married Marjorie Frances Vigers, of Kippington House, Sevenoaks, at St. Mary's Church, Kippington, Sevenoaks, Kent, on 10 August 1929.[39]

He served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II.[40][41]

Vigers died in Bunbury, Western Australia, in September 1968.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Shores, Franks & Guest (1990), pp. 372–373.
  2. ^ "Sopwith Dolphin". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "87 Squadron". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Arthur Whitehair Vigers". The Aerodrome. 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "No. 28892". The London Gazette. 4 September 1914. p. 7008. 
  6. ^ "No. 29051". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 January 1915. p. 888. 
  7. ^ "No. 29273". The London Gazette. 24 August 1915. p. 8398. 
  8. ^ "No. 29422". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1915. p. 28. 
  9. ^ "No. 29438". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 January 1916. p. 586. 
  10. ^ "No. 30124". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 1917. p. 5730. 
  11. ^ "No. 30103". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 May 1917. p. 5332. 
  12. ^ "No. 30468". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 January 1918. p. 694. 
  13. ^ "No. 30416". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 December 1917. p. 12786. 
  14. ^ "No. 30898". The London Gazette. 13 September 1918. p. 10786. 
  15. ^ "No. 30989". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 November 1918. p. 12975. 
  16. ^ "No. 31448". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 July 1919. p. 8841. 
  17. ^ "No. 31554". The London Gazette. 16 September 1919. p. 11589. 
  18. ^ Smith, Ann G. (1983). "Larkin, Herbert Joseph (1894–1972)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  19. ^ "Flight To Tasmania". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (14,072). Newcastle, New South Wales. 15 December 1919. p. 5. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  20. ^ "Another Flight". Maffra Spectator. XXXVIII. Maffra, Victoria. 15 December 1919. p. 3. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  21. ^ "Bass Straits Crossed". The Observer. LXXXVI (5,787). Adelaide, South Australia. 20 December 1919. p. 23. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  22. ^ "Arthur Leonard Long". Monument Australia. 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  23. ^ "Jump From Aeroplane. Aviator's Daring Feat. Aerial Sports at Epsom.". The Argus (22,902). Melbourne, Victoria. 27 December 1919. p. 6. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  24. ^ "Aeroplane "Stunts". Daring Parachute Descent. Crowds At Mordialloc.". The Age (20,202). Melbourne, Victoria. 27 December 1919. p. 6. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  25. ^ "Aeroplane Crash. Disaster At Mornington. Pilot And Passenger Injured.". The Argus (22,908). Melbourne, Victoria. 3 January 1920. p. 14. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  26. ^ "Aeroplane Fatality. Due To Broken Piston. Inquiry by Coroner.". The Argus (22,980). Melbourne, Victoria. 27 March 1920. p. 23. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  27. ^ "Mornington Fatality. Coroner Stresses Need For Air Regulations.". Geelong Advertiser (22,732). Geelong, Victoria. 27 March 1920. p. 7. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  28. ^ "Altitude Record. Flight Over Melbourne.". The Daily Mail (5568). Brisbane, Queensland. 26 June 1920. p. 7. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  29. ^ "An Australian Record". Flight. XII (603): 766. 15 July 1920. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "Local News". The Mildura Cultivator (2241). Mildura, Victoria. 4 August 1920. p. 8. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  31. ^ "The Kerang Accident". Riverina Recorder. XLIV (2234). Balranald, New South Wales. 11 August 1920. p. 2. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  32. ^ "The Last Avro. En Route to Melbourne. Journey Broken at Goulburn.". Goulburn Evening Penny Post. Goulburn, New South Wales. 13 March 1923. p. 4. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  33. ^ "Survey of Air Route". The Journal. LVIII, (16121). Adelaide, South Australia. 4 May 1923. p. 2. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  34. ^ "Aeroplane Crashes. Two Men Are Injured When Machine Comes Down Near Yass.". The Tweed Daily. X (121). Tweed Heads, New South Wales. 23 May 1923. p. 5. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  35. ^ "Aeroplane Wrecked. Sensational Crash.". The Week. XCV (2,474). Brisbane, Queensland. 25 May 1923. p. 24. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  36. ^ "Social and Personal". The Longreach Leader. 2 (73). Longreach, Queensland. 23 May 1924. p. 29. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  37. ^ "Cloncurry Notes". Townsville Daily Bulletin. XXXX (12,687). Townsville, Queensland. 13 June 1924. p. 6. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  38. ^ "An Aeroplane Funeral Flight of 2000 Miles". The Daily Telegraph. XLV (264). Launceston, Tasmania. 6 November 1925. p. 5. Retrieved 28 March 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  39. ^ "Personals: Married". Flight. XXI (1078): 909. 22 August 1929. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  40. ^ Shores, Franks & Guest (1990), p. 373.
  41. ^ "A9300 RAAF Officers Personnel files, 1921-1948: Vigers A. W.". National Archives of Australia. 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  • Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell F. (1990). Above the Trenches: a Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.