Flight Sergeant 1502966 Robert Stanley Williams RAFVR (Age 25)
Robert Stanley Williams, known as Stan to his family, friends and crew, hailed from the Shotton area near Queensferry, Flintshire, North Wales, in his youth he was a keen boy scout, the only son of the widowed Mary Ethel Williams (who only passed away in 1998). Stan also had two sisters, Hilda and Mary.
Stan volunteered for the RAF early in 1943 and after initial assessment was accepted for aircrew training and streamed as an air gunner. On completion of the basic training program Stan was posted to 4 Air Gunnery School, Morpeth Northumberland in May 1943 where he had his first air experience flight in a Miles Martinet. Then followed training on the notoriously unreliable and underpowered Blackburn Botha, fortunately, soon moving on to the far more stable Vickers Wellington. Here, along with basic air gunnery skills, he was taught the necessary emergency drills such as parachute training, dinghy drill and crash landing drill. Stan passed out of the course in July, rated as “average” by his instructors, as most candidates were for some reason, but it was noted that he was “keen and confident!”
In August 1943 Stan was posted to 28 Operational Training Unit at Wymeswold in Leicestershire, here he would meet and crew up for the first time with the Flying Officer who would become his skipper. With some tragic irony he would fly for the first time with F/O Harold (Bill) Paston-Williams on 13/08/43, exactly one year prior to the night they would be shot down over occupied Holland. The training program continued throughout the summer and Stan flew with numerous other pilots as well as Bill Paston-Williams. Late in August Paston-Williams, who was considered to be of an operational standard on the Wellington actually flew his first op whilst still at the OTU, this was common practice during this time to use suitably qualified crews from the training program to make up the numbers on large group efforts, it was considered good “on the job training” however Stan would not have been able to fly with him as his gunnery training was incomplete!
Around the time Paston-Williams flew his first op, Stan was posted away to complete his air gunnery training at 1481 (B) Gunnery Flight at Binbrook, Lincolnshire, here, Miles Martinets, Westland Lysanders and again Vickers Wellingtons were used in various roles, Stan’s course at Binbrook involved a method of using cameras to track the operation of the guns so as to eliminate the use of live rounds in training. Stan passed his course and was posted to 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at Faldingworth, Lincolnshire in December of 1943, fortunately, at the same time as Bill Paston- Williams, now a Flight Lieutenant, arrived there, who immediately drafted him into his permanent crew.
At the heavy conversion unit they would be training and bonding as a crew as they converted on to Handley Page Halifax four engined heavy bombers until February 1944, during this time, the unit moved to nearby Sandtoft.
By the end of February they were a fully functioning crew ready to go operational, but they had one final and big step to take, so in March 1944 they moved to 1 Lancaster Finishing School at Hemswell, Lincolnshire, to convert to the Avro Lancaster. Hemswell became famous after the war as the station used to represent RAF Scampton in the making of the 1954 film “The Dambusters.” Their training was complete by May 1944 and Stan and crew were posted as fully operational to 100 Squadron at Waltham near Grimsby, North Lincolnshire.
With little time to settle in, Bill Paston-Williams flew his “second dickie” familiarisation trip. as co-pilot with an experienced crew on the 24th of May to Le Clipon in France whilst his own crew sat on the ground, eagerly awaiting his return. Then on the 28th May it was time to go and they flew their first operation as a crew, Stan in the mid-upper turret with Bill Paston-Williams as his skipper on Lancaster LL915 HW-V to attack a field battery in Northern France which they carried out successfully.
So Stan’s operational tour was under way, over the next week they were to carry out several ops in the build up to the Normandy landings which were to take place on the 6th June. On the night of the 5th June they attacked one of the gun batteries on the Normandy coast and on their return the whole crew got a clear view of the huge invasion armada heading for France. Thereafter Stan and crew undertook both day and night operations in support of the advancing allied invasion, hitting communication hubs, marshalling yards, oils refineries and other key strategic targets.
On June 12th for the first time they flew into the heart of the Reich, target Gelsenkirchen. In July they would make a further two ops into Germany, to the Sholven Buer oil refinery, north of the Ruhr and to Stuttgart.
By the end of July, Stan was almost two thirds through his first operational tour of thirty ops, but rumours were beginning to circulate that a tour may have to be increased to thirty five ops, due to sustained heavy losses of aircrews. Then came another bad omen, LM585, HW-S the aircraft they had come to know as their own, went down over France with another crew, all of whom were lost.
The crew’s first op in August was to the Paulliac Oil Refinery near Bordeaux, France using a replacement aircraft along with a new navigator, Pilot Officer Gerald Hood had been brought into the crew to replace Pilot Officer Gladman who had come to the end of his tour and was posted out. For their second trip this month, Paston- Williams and crew were detailed to fly a new Lanc’ that had just arrived from the factory at Yeadon, LM658.
On August 12th, Paston Williams and crew were briefed to return to Reich that very night, their target was the industrial and communications hub of Braunsweig in Western Germany. Take off time was 2145, this would be Stan’s 21st op. A more detailed account of the events of that fateful night can be found in The Hood Story section of the website but tragically by the small hours of the following morning, at the age of 25, Stan would be lying dead alongside the burning wreckage of LM658 in a field in Eastern Holland along with three of his crewmates. Possibly injured in the attack by the enemy night fighter or during his attempt to escape from the burning aircraft, Stan was rendered unconscious and though blown clear of the aircraft he never opened his parachute.
The four comrades were interred side by side a few days later in the Hardenberg Protestant cemetery near to the crash site. The poignant inscription on Stan’s headstone reads:
God’s greatest gift, remembrance, your loving Mother.
An illustration of the deep grief felt by the family over the loss of their only son and brother.
With Sincere thanks to Stan’s family, in particular his niece, Mrs Pauline Ellis (Shone) for allowing us to use the family’s treasured image of Stan and for giving their blessing for us to tell his story.