Biography

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
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Units:
  • Australian Flying Corps
  • No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps

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 and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Captain
  • Date of embarkation: 16 March 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George

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

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Service Order

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

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Hejaz Order of the Nahda, Third Class

  • Unit: Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Officer of the Order of the British Empire

  • Unit: Australian Flying Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Distinguished Service Order

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

Collection Items

Photograph

010805

Portrait of Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, KBE CB DSO, Royal Australian Air Force. Sir Richard was born at Moonta, South Australia, on 1890-08-03 and his career included Commanding Officer 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC), 1917-1918; 40 Wing, RAF, 1918; Chief of the Air Staff, RAAF,...

010805

P02520.001

Point Cook, Vic. c. 1914. Group portrait of early members Australian Flying Corps (AFC). They are standing in front of the tail section of a Bristol Boxkite aircraft. At far right is Lieutenant Richard (Dickie) Williams, later Air marshall Sir Richard Williams. A. V. W. Rymer may be in this group....

P02520.001

DAAV00017

Portrait of Captain (Capt) R Williams. This is one of a series of photographs taken by the Darge Photographic Company which had the concession to take photographs at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps during the First World War. In the 1930's, the Australian War Memorial purchased the...

DAAV00017

Private Record

Film

Point Cook RAAF Station

A Movietone News item with sub-titles covering RAAF training at Point Cook, Victoria with an introduction by Air-Commodore Richard Williams, CBE, DSO, then Chief of the Air Staff. There are four types of aircraft featured: A5 Westland Wapiti; A7 Gipsy Moth, A11 Southampton Flying Boat and A12...

F02073

"Father" [Sir Richard Williams] of RAAF revisits Point Cook

Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams revisits Point Cook to "star" in a segment of a film being produced by the Commomwealth Film Unit, to mark the 50th anniversary of the RAAF which falls in 1971. Just as the retired Air Marshal is regarded as the "father" of military flying in Australia, Point Cook...

F02768

Timeline

Date of birth 1890-08-03 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 1916-01-05 Appointed flight commander with No 1 Squadron, AFC, the first complete flying Corps to be formed in Australia.
Date of embarkation 1916-03-16
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 1917-08-16 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 1919-01-01 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.
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 1927-06-03 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 1935-06-03 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 1942-07-06 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 1954-01-01 Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).
Date of death 1980-02-07 Melbourne, VIC.