Page updated: 19 July 2019 – See foot of page for further details.
This is one of the loveliest family photos we have seen of a Pathfinder. This is Lionel Thomas Richard Williams with his daughter.
Lionel Williams was flying with the Pathfinders in 1944-45, and one of his last operations is below. It is possible that he afterwards became 156 Squadron’s adjutant.
He survived the war, and went on to fly for BOAC, then for British Airways. His grandson, Owen Gomersall, who sent the photograph, wrote:
He would tell me about his normal pilot days, but always said that the bombing part of his life was just something that had to be done.
Page updated: 19 July 2019
Message from Graham Williams, 3 June 2019
On your site there is a photo of my father, “Lionel” Williams and his “daughter”. A few details need correcting.
(1) Dad was only known as “Lionel” in his close family circle (brothers, sisters etc.). Elsewhere he was always known as “Tom.” When he was recruited he was asked for his first name. When he said “Lionel” he was then asked if he had any other names. When he said “Thomas” he was told “Right you’re ‘Tom’ now” and he was always called that by anyone else. You can check this with any of his crew members (Doug Reed, Pete Robertson, Basil Butterfield, Dick Willgoss, Bob Heatrick or Harry Wilkinson – I think Jimmy Burgess died young).
(2) The little girl in the picture is my sister Joyce , who was strictly speaking his step-daughter, not his biological daughter. In the family she was always treated as a “normal” member but any letters for her always bore the name of her biological father.
(3) Dad did not fly with B.O.A.C. but with British South American Airways (B.S.A.A.), a company founded by the head of the Pathfinders, Don Bennett, which was later merged with B.O.A.C. but Dad had left them by then. In those days the trips to Buenos Aires and back took three weeks with five stops on the way (Lisbon, Dakar, Natal, Rio and Montevideo) so Dad switched to B.E.A. as the trips were shorter. As far as I know he never flew the Avro Tudor but the Avro York, a noisy civilian version of the Lancaster and described by its pilots as “four engines tearing one another’s gutses out.”
I have never heard of him becoming the squadron’s adjutant, but it’s best to check this with the 156 Squadron Association.
Below: image of Tom taken at Moncton in New Brunswick, Canada, almost certainly just after he won his pilot’s wings and shortly before being posted back to the UK. Moncton was the clearing station for all UK aircrew in Canada and the United States.
Photograph courtesy of Owen Gomersall.