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The Airmen's Stories - F/O D C Williams

 

Denis Conon Williams was born on 29th July 1914 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with a twin, Henry. Their father, Rev. Henry Samuel Frank Williams MC MiD BA, had married Dorothy Stuckey in 1912.

At the start of WW1 Mr. Williams had volunteered to serve with the local battalion, which formed part of the 53rd Welsh Division. At the time he was Vicar of St. Matthew’s Church, Pontypridd.

His baptism of fire was at the Gallipoli landing on 8th August 1915. The division was to suffer heavy casualties before being evacuated to Egypt. He served with the 5th Welsh and 53rd Division throughout the Palestine campaign and had the distinction of conducting the first Christian service in Jerusalem after its occupation by British troops and also conducted the first military Christian service in Bethlehem in 500 years.

He was awarded the Military Cross (gazetted 11th August 1917), the citation reading:

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed magnificent courage and devotion in collecting the wounded from the open under heavy shell fire, helping the Medical Officer at the Regimental Aid Post and remaining out all night searching for wounded. He showed complete disregard for his personal safety and rejoined the battalion in an exhausted condition'.

He was mentioned in dispatches on 6th July 1917 and 11th June 1918.

He wrote an account of the first Battle of Gaza:

'The battalion had a beastly ground to advance over, flat and bare of cover. It was not until about 10am on Monday 26th March that the fog lifted sufficiently to reveal what lay in front. I with my brigade was away on the left, on a rough ridge torn with deep gullies and ravines, over which we had to advance, and from this ridge I stood with our colonel and watched the sea mists roll away like a curtain.

The houses and gardens and minarets of Gaza came into view like a stage set. Our objective was a very strong natural position, improved by art, and known as the labyrinth – a nasty nut to crack, as the ground was very rough. The ravines running down from the side of the ridge were torn by rainstorms and ranged from a foot wide and two feet deep to twenty or thirty feet and as much deep, with perpendicular sides. You can picture how fatiguing the business was under a scorching sun and with a pint and a half of water in two days. The lads from Wales went into action across their flat fields at 1030am and by 4pm they had won their way into the citadel and were clearing the Turks out in fine style.

Meanwhile on the ridge which runs towards Gaza and terminates in the labyrinth, a maze of trenches was heavily machine gunned. We had stood in the morning mist until 10am, waiting for it to roll seawards and at last the word to advance came at about 11am. We and another battalion were selected to attack, the rest being held in reserve. We made straight for our objective under shellfire and machine gun fire as we topped each rise. At 1.30pm we were into the labyrinth and cleared the ground, but at 3pm our right and left flanks were left in the air and our position became critical.

Urgent messages for support, also for more ammunition, water and stretchers were sent. The wounded were lying out in the blazing sun and we had to carry on as best we could. So the day wore on until sunset. The night which followed was as bitterly cold as the day had been hot and we simply lay where we were, and fell asleep only to wake with teeth chattering in an hour or two. Breakfast was only a biscuit, some bully beef and a swig of water, which had arrived at 2am. That night we fell back on our original position. We had all realised our objectives, taken 800 prisoners, including a GOC and staff and numbers of guns. I don’t know what the Turkish losses are but they must be severe. The whole division has done magnificently and given the Turks a terrible shake up.

The men have been magnificent. My stretcher bearers (that was my job during the action as we were so handicapped for men and stretchers) were beyond praise – cool steady and ready for anything. One came along with me to bury one of our poor boys, and together we dug a shallow grave about 200 yards away from the very cactus hedge which screened some Turkish machine guns; but they left us alone much to our relief. Well, it is over, and we are getting ready for another push, which I hope will finish off the business.

I hope and pray the parish is still flourishing in spite of everything'.

 

 

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DC Williams was educated at Coventry Prep School. He and his brother then attended Eastbourne College and were at School House from September 1928 to July 1932.

On leaving he worked for Morris and Wolseley Motors in Birmingham, then as a planning engineer with the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Clayton-le-Moors and finally as a director with Projects and Developments Ltd, a holloware manufacturer in Blackburn.

Williams joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training on 25th July 1938.

After completing his training he joined 141 Squadron on 8th October 1939, which had been recently reformed at Turnhouse.

 

Above: P/O GFC Pledger (left) and Williams.

 

Williams was injured in a crash on 10th December when he had to force land a Blenheim near Linlithgow. He had been returning to base after taking a pilot to Catterick to ferry a Spitfire back. He was overtaken by darkness. The aircraft was destroyed and Williams suffered arm and shoulder injuries, which hospitalised him.

He generally flew with P/O GF Pledger as his gunner.

On 24th March 1941 Williams and Pledger took off From Gravesend to perform an air test in Defiant N1795 after it had received a 30 hour service. The engine failed just after they lifted off. The Defiant rapidly lost height, skidded across a field, and crashed into an embankment on Watling Street, not far off the end of the runway.

The wings were torn off, as was the propeller assembly, and the fuselage ended up on its port side, with the tail section twisted upside down. Luckily it did not catch fire and they managed to escape with minor injuries (below).

 

 

They were killed together on an operational flight on 4th April 1941.

Their Defiant T3913 had taken off at about 11pm with one other but both were recalled to Gravesend due to very bad weather and poor radio reception.

In descending through cloud the aircraft struck the ground near Little Hermitage, two miles from Gravesend.

Williams was cremated at Birmingham Crematorium, Perry Bar.

 


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