Flight Sergeant B. C. Williams, NZ-405255 - RNZAF, Fighter Pilot - KIA (8 sorties)
Awards and Decorations
- 1939-1945 Star
- Air Crew Europe Star
- War Medal 1939-1945
- New Zealand War Medal
- New Zealand Memorial Cross (issued to those KIA)
Squadron and Movements
1 Squadron RAF
539 Squadron RAF
Flight Sergeant Bernard Clive Williams, NZ 405355 was trained as a pilot and flew the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. Although a member of the Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF), he was attached to No. 1 and No. 539 Squadron RAF. He was killed in action at age 27 on October 4, 1942.
Williams was born at Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand 16th September 1915 and was employed as a car salesman until he enlisted at the Initial Training Wing at Levin on 22nd December 1940. He proceeded to Whenuapai on 9th February 1941 for elementary flight training, then on 12th April 1941 to No. 2 Service Flying School at Blenheim.
Williams was awarded his pilot wings and promoted to the rank of Sergeant on 5th July 1941 and was deployed to the United Kingdom for operational duties on 1st June 1942, where he was promoted to Flight Sergeant.
On arrival in the United Kingdom he was temporarily attached to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth, and then posted to No. 59 Operational Training Unit at Cumberland. It was here that Williams completed conversion training to the Hurricane fighter aircraft before being posted to No. 1 Squadron at Trangmere in Sussex.
Posting to Number 1 and Number 539 Squadron
No. 1 Squadron were supplied with The Hawker Hurricane 2 which was equipped with 20 mm cannon armament. The Squadron was one of a number of squadrons selected for conversion to night fighter duties.
From this airfield, Williams participated in eight operational sorties; five defensive patrols and three intruder patrols over German occupied France. It was during one of these intruder patrols that he was credited with destroying a railway engine.
The Squadron moved from Sussex to Acklington on 6th September and Williams, along with other No. 1 Squadron pilots were transferred to No. 539 Squadron, also located at Acklington.
Selected for Radar Beam Training
Williams was deemed by the hierarchy as being a relatively good pilot as he was selected for Beam Approach Training at Wittering. Beam approach training involved the use of radar which enabled pilots to fly missions at night. The new technology allowed aircraft such as the Hurricane and Typhoon to be used on night fighter operations. Williams returned to No. 539 squadron on 3rd October.
Killed in Aircraft Crash in Poor Flying Conditions - Dense Fog
On Sunday 4th October 1942 Williams was killed, when his plane plummeted to the ground during aerobatics and low flying practice. According to Fighter Command records: the Hurricane 2C fighter BN.382 piloted by Williams took off at 1525 and was later seen to dive out of low cloud into the ground 3 miles NE of Gilsland, Cumberland.
The Operations Record Book for No. 539 Squadron for 4th October reads: Weather was rather unsettled and no night flying took place. The Hurricanes did low flying and practice. This was a black day for the Squadron, as two Hurricanes crashed with fatal results to the pilots. Sgt. R. S. Timewell in hurricane 2C BN.205 And F/Sgt Williams, B. C. in Hurricane 2C BN.382. Both pilots took off at 1525 hrs to do practice acrobatics. F/SgtWilliams crashed at Gilsland and was reported missing believed killed and later confirmed killed.
Williams, who had logged 400 flying hours is buried at Carlisle near Cumberland. The Grave Reference Panel Number is: Ward 11. Sec. P. Grave 43. Williams was 27 years old.
LEFT: Scroll given to Next of Kin.
Human Remains at Crash Site Discovered in 1977
In the Evening News and Star (newspaper) on March 12, 1977 it was reported that human remains had been found in the wreckage of a Hurricane fighter on wild moorland at the RAF base located at Spadeadam. The area, a muddy bog covered in shallow water, has been more or less untouched since the end of World War Two.
A local amateur aviation museum wished to recover what remained of the wreckage (parts of the engine and armaments), however this process was politically hampered by the remains of the pilot still evident within the cockpit area. As such the RAF and police were involved in the aircraft recovery.
According to the RAF report dated 1977, the following was recovered from the wreckage: A parachute bearing stick-on tape with the particulars 10185?5 F/S Williams. Beneath the tape on the parachute the words Whitemore were clearly visible; the front portion of the reduction gear with the propeller minus the blades; one Hispano 20 mm MK2 cannon with shells; a small purse (like a money belt) containing eight one pounds notes and some small change; a small gold locket and chain dated 1899; and various aircraft engine parts such as a starter motor and generator motor.
LEFT & BELOW: Cemetery headstone of Flt. Sgt Williams in Carlisle near Cumberland, England and scroll of Honour issued to Next of Kin by British Government. Rear of William's Killed in Action cross.