Sergeant Kenneth Victor Williams
Kenneth Victor Williams was born on 16 September 1915 in Fairfield, Victoria to Arthur John Williams and Ethel May (nee Hems) Williams.
His schooling was disrupted when the family moved to Sydney in 1931, as a result he left without having gained any qualifications. He was, however, quite athletic playing football for local teams and listed tennis, amateur boxing, swimming and “horseback riding” as his other sports.
In common with other Australian Air Force personnel, on enlistment Ken Williams went to No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park. From there he went to No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School at Mascot in Sydney, now the site of Sydney International Airport.
On completion of his elementary flight training he was posted to No 1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden in Ontario. There he built his flying experience on types such as the North American Harvard II, amassing 45 hours day time solo flying as well as 6 hours 40 minutes night time solo flying in addition to his dual hours.
He arrived in Britain in April 1941 and was posted to No. 57 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hawarden for conversion to the Spitfire. After the now customary nine weeks, Williams was posted to the newly formed 457 (RAAF) Squadron at RAF Baginton on 30 June. The Squadron had been formed just two weeks previously and was commanded by Squadron Leader Peter B M Brothers who had won a DFC during the Battle of Britain.
As a brand new unit, the squadron entered a period of training and organisation before commencing its operational role on 18 July, although at this stage not all of its pilots were fully capable. However, this was not before Ken Williams had had a mishap on landing his Spitfire (X4530) when he struck a truck on landing. He was uninjured but the Spitfire was seriously damaged. Following this training incident he was reprimanded and:
The Air Officer Commanding, Headquarters, No. 9 Group has directed that his Log Book be endorsed in red ink for carelessness.
The accident being something slightly more serious than the “minor traffic offences” he admitted to on his air force application. His training was allowed to continue and he achieved his first operational sortie on 28 July when he was scrambled on an interception which ultimately proved fruitless.
457 Squadron was declared fully operational on 5 August 1941 and set about preparing to move the RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man. Squadron Leader Brothers DFC led 17 Spitfires to their new home at 9.30 a.m. on 7 August. The move was not allowed to impact training, with 145 hours, 40 minutes flying training being completed in the week to 10 August.
Ken Williams performed two convoy patrols on 16 August before, on 19 August, the 457 Squadron diary entry noted:
No. A.407119 Sgt. Emery and No. A.400264 Sgt. Williams proceed to No.452 (Australian) Squadron on posting. This unexpected posting caused a certain amount of discontent in the Squadron, as, at the time of writing, excluding Emery and Williams we are still two pilots below establishment. Pilots rightly thought that having formed and trained together they should be allowed the opportunity of actual combat together.
This abrupt notification no doubt came as a result of the losses 452 (RAAF) Squadron had incurred on 9 and 19 August where they suffered four pilots killed and one taken prisoner. The 452 Squadron Diary recorded their arrival on the afternoon of 21 August.
After a short period of familiarisation, Williams joined the squadron on two “Circus” operations on 31 August. The morning operation took them to St. Omer and the evening trip to Le Trait, both were completely uneventful. The afternoon of 2 September found Williams and 452 join 602 from Kenley with 72 and 92 squadrons from Biggin Hill on a sweep along the French coast from St Omer to Marquise, the only item of note was the early return of Wing Commander Johnny Kent with a defective radio.
2 September, 1941 would prove to be Ken Williams’ final operational sortie. With a lull in operations Williams undertook more realistic flying training. While on one such flight he was practising “dummy attacks” in company with the more experienced Sergeant J. N. Hanigan on 7 September, when their Spitfires collided and crashed in the grounds of Cane Hill Hospital / Hollymeoak Rd area. Neither pilot survived.
Sergeant Kenneth Victor Williams was buried with full military honours, on 11 September, 1941 along with Sergeant J. N. Hanigan in St. Luke’s, Whyteleafe. He lies in Row H Grave 33. The inscription reads:
His duty fearlessly and nobly done. Always remembered
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.