Air Marshal Richard Williams

Ranks Held Captain, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel, Temporary Major, Air Marshal, Air Vice Marshal, Group Captain
Birth Date 03 August 1890
Birth Place Australia: South Australia, Moonta Mines
Death Date 07 February 1980
Death Place Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Final Rank Air Marshal
Service Australian Imperial Force
Units
  • Australian Flying Corps
  • No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
Places
Conflict/Operation First World War, 1914-1918
Gazettes Published in London Gazette in 1920-04-01
Published in London Gazette in 1918-01-12
Published in London Gazette in 1918-01-16
Published in London Gazette in 1919-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1920-01-12
Published in London Gazette in 1927-06-03
Published in London Gazette in 1935-06-03
Published in London Gazette in 1917-08-16
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1920-04-01
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-07-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-12-20
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1920-07-08
Description

Regarded as the father of the Royal Australian Air Force, Richard Williams was born on 3 August 1890 at Moonta Mines, South Australia. He enlisted in the South Australian Infantry Regiment at the age of 19 and gained a commission in 1911.

On 17 August 1914 he attended a war flying course at Point Cook, Victoria; upon completion he resumed his post as a lieutenant on the Administrative and Instructional Staff. In July 1915 he returned to Point Cook for advanced aviation training and in August married Constance Griffiths.

On 5 January 1916 Williams was appointed captain and posted as a flight commander to No. 1 Squadron, AFC. The squadron began operations in December that year in support of ground forces advancing into Palestine. In May 1917 Williams took command of the squadron, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order for rescuing a pilot shot down behind enemy lines. In June 1918 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and given command of a Royal Flying Corps wing comprising three British squadrons and his own.

Williams was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1919 in recognition of his war service. He spent much of 1919 as Staff Officer, Aviation, at AIF headquarters in London. On returning to Australia, Williams was heavily involved in establishing the RAAF, which came into being in March 1921. In 1922 Williams became Chief of Air Staff but faced many difficulties in establishing the new service. Williams was promoted to group captain in July 1925. In 1926 he flew a seaplane on a trip to the islands north of Australia to study the region as a possible theatre of operations and was made air commodore the following year.

In 1935 Williams was appointed air vice marshal and continued to represent the Air Force's interests against the competing demands of the other services. He was attached to Britain's Air Ministry and in early 1939 was given charge of administration in the RAF's Coastal Command before returning to Australia in 1940 as Air Member for Organisation and Equipment. Williams did not support the integration of Australian airmen into the RAF but was overruled by his superiors; in October 1941 he was sent to England to establish and command RAAF Overseas Headquarters to administer the thousands of RAAF personnel then arriving there.

Williams subsequently served as the RAAF representative in Washington from 1942 until the end of the war. In 1946 he became Director General of Civil Aviation and retired from the RAAF that September. He oversaw the expansion of domestic and international aviation and the creation of a network of airfields and associated infrastructure around Australia.

Williams died in Melbourne on 7 February 1980.

Rolls

  • First World War Embarkation Roll:

    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 April 1920 on page 4022 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    08 July 1920 on page 945 at position 9
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 January 1919 on page 94 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 July 1919 on page 1167 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Royal Australian Air Force
    Conflict
    Period 1930-1939
    Rank
    Air Vice Marshal
    London Gazette
    03 June 1935 on page 3596 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards:

    Conflict
    Period 1920-1929
    Rank
    Group Captain
    London Gazette
    03 June 1927 on page 3611 at position 1
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    16 January 1918 on page 937 at position 20
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 May 1918 on page 1125 at position 52
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    12 January 1920 on page 507 at position 16
    Commonwealth Gazette
    01 April 1920 on page 545 at position 33
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain
    London Gazette
    16 August 1917 on page 8353 at position 5
    Commonwealth Gazette
    20 December 1917 on page 3372 at position 24
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Major
    London Gazette
    12 January 1918 on page 804 at position 17
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 May 1918 on page 1122 at position 31
  • First World War Nominal Roll:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain

Timeline

Date of birth 03 August 1890 Moonta Mines, SA.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1909 Enlisted in the South Australian Infantry Regiment.
Date commissioned 1911 Appointed to a permanent commission in the Australian Army.
Other 1914 Attended a war flying course at Point Cook, Victoria.
Other 1914-11 Qualified for a pilot licence.
Other 1915-07 Passed an Advanced Flying Course.
Other units 05 January 1916 Appointed flight commander with No 1 Squadron, AFC, the first complete flying Corps to be formed in Australia.
Date of enlistment 01 March 1916
Date of embarkation 16 March 1916
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917
Other 1917-05 Williams took command of No. 1 Squadron with the rank of major.
Date of honour or award 16 August 1917 Distinguished Service Order (DSO), for rescuing a pilot shot down behind enemy lines.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918
Date promoted 1918-06 Promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel and given command of 40 Wing, Royal Flying Corps.
Other 1919 Staff officer, aviation, at AIF Headquarters in London.
Date of honour or award 01 January 1919 Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Date returned to Australia 1919-10 Recalled to Australia for duty as Director of Air Services at Army Headquarters.
Date returned to Australia 30 October 1919
Other 1920-11 Became senior member of the Air Board.
Other 1922 - 1939 Became chief of air staff, RAAF.
Other 1923 Graduated from the British Army Staff College in Camberley, England.
Other 1924 Graduated from the RAF Staff College.
Date promoted 1925-07 Promoted to captain.
Date of honour or award 03 June 1927 Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Other 1933 Graduated from the Imperial Defence College.
Date promoted 1935 Williams was appointed air vice marshal.
Date of honour or award 03 June 1935 Companion of the Bath (CB).
Other 1939-02 Attached to Britain's Air Ministry as Air Officer in Charge of Administration of Coastal Command of the RAF.
Date returned to Australia 1940 Returned to Australia with the rank of air marshal.
Other 1941-12 He established Overseas Headquarters, RAAF, in London and became its commander.
Other 06 July 1942 Went to Washington as the RAAF representative in with the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
Other 1946 Transferred to the Retired List.
Other 1946-06-11 - 1955-12-31 Appointed Director-General of Civil Aviation.
Date of honour or award 01 January 1954 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).
Date of death 07 February 1980 Melbourne, VIC