Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, KBE, CB, DSO (1890-1980)

Sir Richard Williams, KBE, CB, DSO
Director-General of Civil Aviation
11 June 1946-31 December 1955

Richard Williams was born on 3 August 1890 at Moonta, SA. He first became a Bank Officer, a post he held for five years. In 1912 he was appointed to a permanent Commission in the Army and subsequently went on the first military pilot's training course at Point Cook, Vic, in 1914. In November 1914 he became the first to qualify for a pilot licence at that school, having learned on Bristol Box Kites with a top speed of 55 mph. The aircraft could only be flown at dawn and dusk when the air was calm.

In July 1915 Lt Williams passed out from an Advanced Flying Course. Six months later he was a Flight Commander with No 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps, the first complete flying squadron to be formed in Australia. Three months after that, he was a Captain and Flight Commander on active service in Egypt and was awarded the DSO.

By May 1917 he had been promoted to Major Williams and Officer Commanding 1 Squadron. In June 1918 he was appointed to the command of 40 Wing, Royal Air Force and promoted to Lt. Colonel.

In October 1919 he was recalled to Australia from London for duty as Director of Air Services at Army Headquarters and later became the senior member of the Air Board which was constituted in November 1920. It became his task, at age 30, to compile the memo which laid the foundation of the formation of the RAAF. He graduated from the Army Staff College, Camberley, in England in 1923, the RAF Staff College in 1924 and the Imperial Defence College in 1933.

He subsequently became Australia's first Chief of the Air Staff, a post he held until 1939. In February 1939 he was Air Officer in Charge of Administration of Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force.

In January 1940 he returned to Australia with the rank of Air Marshal to organise Australia's part in the Empire Air Training Scheme.

In December 1941 he established Overseas Headquarters, RAAF, in London and became its commander. On 6 July 1942 he went to Washington as RAAF Representative with the Combined Chiefs of Staff and served there until the end of the Second World War.

In 1946, on being transferred to the RAAF Retired List, he was appointed Director-General of Civil Aviation, a position which he held for nine years from 11 June 1946 to 31 December 1955. He was Knighted on 4 March 1954.

Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams died in Melbourne, Vic, on 7 February 1980.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

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