Peter "Willy" Williamson

RAF Air Vice Marshall

DFC & Bar, CB, CBE


Peter Greville Kaye "Willy" Williamson
Born 28 February 1923 in Adelaide South Australia
Enlisted in the RAF in January 1941
P/O on Probation 17 September 1941
Confirmed 17 September 1942
Claimed 153 Squadron's first victory 13/14 January 1943
F/L (acting) on 17 January 1943
DFC Gazetted 10 August 1943
F/L (war sub) 17 September 1943
Bar to DFC Gazetted 13 April 1945
Sometimes affectionately called "Prune" by his squadron mates

F/L (permanent) 1 September 1945
S/L with seniority from 1 September 1945
Confirmed as AVM on 1 July 1973
Retired on 28 February 1978

Died 10 August 1982

Willy Williamson



25 May 1943 - The most brilliant single venture of the weekend was that of an RAF Beaufighter piloted by PGK Williamson of Hill Lodge, Bedhampton, near Havant, Hants. Within an hour, he shot down two Italian S79s. The first Savoia went crashing into the sea after a single burst from the Beaufighter. The second dived into cloud to escape. Williamson trailed it and finally bagged it.
The total of Axis aircraft destroyed on the ground and in the air during the past four days is 291. This is a devastating rate for the Axis, and especially for the Italians.


Five Enemy Planes Destroyed
Daring Night Fighter

The Evening News Monday August 9 1943 - Official information has been received that Flying Officer Peter Greville Kaye Williamson, whose parents live at BedHampton Hill, Havant, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The official announcement stated: They have displayed great keenness and co-operation and have destroyed five enemy aircraft. During one sortie they were forced to abandon their aircraft over the sea and were subsequently adrift in the dinghy for over five hours. In spite of this trying experience F/O Williamson and Sgt. Lake quickly resumed operational flying. Sgt. Lake has since been promoted to Pilot Officer.
Flying Officer Peter Williamson is 19, and like his mother, was born in Australia. His father, who served with the famous 10th Anzac Regiment at the Gallipoli landing in the last war, was born in India.
Flight Officer Williamson gained his commission very rapidly after joining out. He has a large number of operational flights to his credit, and has specialized in night fighting. At present is attached to a squadron which holds the record for number of enemy planes brought down during the past six months in the Mediterranean area.

During the past few months he has wrecked two enemy bombers within half an hour, and also accounted for a four engine Italian plane piloted by a one of Mussolini's air aces. Nothing has given F/O Williamson so much pleasure as to learn that his observer Sgt. Denis Lake has been awarded the DFM for the part he played with the F/O in his exploits.

In a recent letter home Flying Officer Williamson recalls one of his exploits and reveals a typical example of the humanitarianism characteristic of the RAF which contrasts strikingly with the mentality of those Italians who clamored for the shooting down of parachuting airmen.
The letter includes the following: "I had a bit of luck the night before last and shot down two Italian bombers. It was rather astounding, because when the second one crashed, about half an hour after the first, it was well on fire and hit the sea a terrific smash which broke it into pieces. But just in case I asked for a rescue boat to be sent out. About five minutes later I was going to cancel it when I saw a light flashing, and so told the boat to make all speed to the spot which I was circling.
"I circled for about an hour until the Dawn broke. We then saw a man clinging to what was left of the tail unit which had broken off when the aircraft hit the water, and was fairly whole. I dived down and fired Very lights to let the poor beggar know he had been seen. We saw also that the tail unit was slowly sinking, so my observer inflated his dinghy and dropped it to him. It landed about 20 yards away, but he made no attempt to swim towards it, so we gathered his injuries prevented him from swimming. This we discovered afterwards to be true, as he had broken legs and various other injuries."

"The extraordinary part about the whole affair was that the man had no light. I discovered that the flashing light which I thought I saw was purely imaginary. He is now in hospital and doing well."
F/O Williamson has also had an unpleasant experience, for he hints that he has "had to swim for it," caught a chill, and had to go into hospital. He has been made a member of the Goldfish Club, but looks upon the incident which qualified him for that honor as being just part and parcel of the risks run by every airmen. It did not take him long to get back into form again.


London Gazette #36127 of August 6th 1943

Distinguished Flying Cross
Flying Officer Peter Greville Kaye WILLIAMSON (107239), RAFVR, No. 153 Squadron.

Distinguished Flying Medal
Sergeant Denis Strickland LAKE (1393221), Royal Air Force, No. 153 Squadron.

As pilot and observer respectively, this officer and airman completed many sorties during the campaign in North Africa. They have displayed great keenness and co-operation and, in various combats at night, they have destroyed 5 enemy aircraft. During 1 sortie, they were forced to abandon their aircraft whilst over the sea and were subsequently adrift in the dinghy for 5 hours before being rescued. In spite of this trying experience, Flying Officer Williamson and Sergeant Lake quickly resumed operational flying. Both these members of aircraft crew have displayed courage and devotion to duty worthy of great praise


They Have Made Friends A New Air Weapon

6 August 1943 - FRIENDSHIP has been forged into a new air weapon by the crack night fighters of No. 153 Squadron of the RAF. The Commanding Officer of this famous squadron believes that the men who like to stand each other drinks in brief off-duty moments, are far happier if they fight together too. History has proved him right, for never a week passes without a combination from the squadron delivering a heavy punch at the Luftwaffe.
"Me and My Pal," motto of the Commandos, is also the slogan of the young devil-may-care fighter crews from 153. Every man has his own personal buddy with whom to fly, fight, and face death.
Today, the Air Ministry announced the awards of D.F.C. and DFM to “Pete and Dennis,” and the DFC to “Leslie and George” – two fighter pairs from 153 Squadron.
Flying Officer Peter Greville Kaye Williamson and Sergeant (now Pilot Officer) Dennis Strickland Lake are the first pair.
“They have displayed great keenness and co-operation,” and have destroyed five enemy aircraft.
“During one sortie, they were forced to abandon their aircraft whilst over the sea and were subsequently adrift in the dinghy for 5 hours before being rescued. In spite of this trying experience, Flying Officer Williamson and Sergeant Lake quickly resumed operational flying. Both these members of aircraft crew have displayed courage and devotion to duty worthy of great praise.”
Lake, a radio navigator, is 21 and lives at Bromley Kent. F/O Williamson comes from Adelaide Australia. Lake’s mother told the Daily Mirror last night: “He was a sergeant but a month ago he was given a commission.
“This is the first I have heard about the pair of them being adrift. But my son is a quiet boy and he has told me little.”
The other pair to receive honours are Flying Officer Leslie Stephenson and Flying Officer George Arthur Hall. Their citation states they “have flown together on a large number of sorties and have displayed great skill and determination throughout.
“They have been responsible for the destruction of six enemy aircraft, three of them in one night.
F/O Hall was born at Morley, Yorkshire, is aged 23 and his home is at Pudsey, near Leeds. His pal Stephenson is 23 and comes from Co. Durham.

The Way Of The English
Here is a letter home from an airman who has just won the D.F.C. - Flying Officer Williamson, of a Squadron which (as reported on page four) has made friendship a new weapon. It reveals a chivalry in striking contrast to the behavior of Italians who clamored for British airmen to be shot down while parachuting after bailing out.
"I had a bit of luck and shot down two Italian bombers. The second hit the sea a terrific crash which broke it into pieces, none much bigger than about a foot. But just in case, I asked for a rescue boat to be sent out."
"About five minutes later I was going to cancel it when I saw a light flashing, so I circled the spot until dawn, when we saw a man clinging to what was left of the tail unit.
"I dived down and fired a Very light to let the poor beggar know he had been seen. My observer inflated his dingy and dropped it to him. It landed about twenty yards away, but he appeared unable to swim to it. We discovered afterwards he had two broken legs."
"The extraordinary thing was that the man had no light. The flashing light which I thought I saw must have been purely imaginary."
“He is now in hospital and doing well."


Dennis Lake was later killed in a flying accident with W/C Bill Maguire. You can click that link to read about it.



Now with Fred Forrest as Nav / RO


Willy & Sirdar  

Mosquito Got Two Ju188s in Five Minutes


5 August 1944 - Twice within a quarter of an hour yesterday, a Mosquito pilot shot down a Ju88 at the mouth of the Seine.
The pilot, F/L Peter G. K. Williamson, DFC, of Havant, flying with F/O Frederick E. Forrest, of London N., as his observer, made both kills with a few bursts.
Exactly twelve months ago this week our columns contained the announcement the Williamson had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for having brought down five enemy aircraft.

He also took a prominent part in the rescue of an airman who had bailed out and was drifting helplessly in the sea.




F/L Peter Williamson is seen here with the squadron mascot Sirdar



8 August 1944 - A Mosquito out on patrol over Argentan early on Monday destroyed a Ju188 with the aid of a pocket torch. Flight Lieut P. G. K. Williamson, DFC of Havant, was the Mosquito pilot with Flying Officer Frederick Forrest as his navigator, says A.E.A.F.
"We sighted the enemy aircraft and took a burst at it, but the reflector gunsight went out of order at the crucial moment and I missed completely," said Flying Officer Williamson. "The enemy aircraft started shooting back at us while we tried to get the gunsight working again and finally we got it going by using a pocket torch in place of the usual method of illumination. We had another go at the Jerry and his starboard engine caught fire. Another short burst set his cabin alight and he rolled over on his back and dived into the ground with a large vivid explosion."
The crew destroyed two Ju 188s over La Havre early last Friday morning.
F/L Williamson won his D.F.C. in North Africa where he destroyed five enemy aircraft.


Bedhampton DFC Got JU With Gun-Sight Out of Order

21 January 1945 - A 22-year-old Bedhampton D.F.C. night fighter pilot who "blacked out" in the middle of combat with the JU. 88 and recovered only to find out that his gunsight was useless, made his ninth "kill" a few nights ago, by chasing the Junkers back to Germany and sending it crashing in flames.
Flight lieut. Peter Greville Kaye Williamson, D.F.C., of Hill Lodge, Bedhampton, was flying a mosquito over Belgium when he overheard the ground controller instructing another pilot over the radiotelephone to go to an area where an enemy aircraft was operating. Williamson asked for permission to go along too.

Like Daylight
"When I got there," he said, "the whole area was so bright by the light of fires that it was almost like daylight. Finding the enemy aircraft was easy. It immediately began to take violent evasive action.
"I closed and identified it as a JU-88, but before I could attack it went into a steep dive. I followed, firing a short burst of cannon, but without success." The enemy aircraft suddenly pulled out violently, and flight Lieut. Williamson followed suit. "Then," he continued, "everything went dark. The sudden jolt as I came out of the dive had caused me to 'black out'. Fortunately, it was only temporary, and I regained my vision after a few seconds, only to find that my gunsight was out of order.

Long Burst
"There was no time to fix it so I closed right in and fired a long burst. Immediately smoke and fire poured out from the starboard engine of the enemy aircraft which turned over on its back and began to lose height rapidly. Shortly afterwards there was a big flash on the ground a few miles to the East of Aachen."
Flight Lieut. Williamson, who was educated at Winchester House and Dauntsey's, joined the RAF in January 1941. Besides his score of nine "kills," he has destroyed three flying bombs.
Once, while serving with the Mediterranean forces, he was forced to bail out of his aircraft over the sea, and spent six hours in a dinghy before being picked up by a French fishing boat.

Urge To Fly
His observer is flying officer Frederick Ernest Forest, of Queensland Avenue, Hornsey (London), a peacetime engineer, who has been in the RAF since September, 1939.
In the early part of the war, Forest, who is 38, was a transport officer, but the urge to fly was so strong that he volunteered for aircrew, even though it meant reverting to a lower rank. He has helped his pilot to destroy four enemy aircraft and three flying bombs


London Gazette #37030 of 10 May 1945

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
F/L Peter Greville Kaye WILLIAMSON, D.F.C. (107239), RAFVR, 219 Sqn.

Distinguished Flying Cross
F/O Frederick Ernest FORREST (63933), RAFVR, 219 Sqn.

As pilot and observer of aircraft respectively, these officers have taken part in very many sorties, some of them in most adverse weather. They have shown a high degree of skill and courage during these operations and have destroyed 4 enemy aircraft. These successes have brought Flight Lieutenant Williamson's total victories to 9.


Victories Include :

13/14 Jan '43
15/16 Jan '43
29/30 Jan '43
11 Mar '43
22/23 May '43

3/4 Aug 1944
6/7 Aug 1944
17/18 Jan '45

one FW200*
one Ju88
one Ju88
one Ju88
two S79s

two Ju188s
one Ju188
one Ju88



Maison Blanche area
W Cape Matifou
over the sea
N African coast

Le Havre-Seine Estuary
Argentan area
10 m E of Aachen

153 Sqn.

219 Sqn.

9 / 0 / 1

* Actually a Piaggio P-108B of 274 Squadriglia

Claims with 153 Squadron he had Dennis Lake as R/O
Claims with 219 Squadron he had Fred Forrest as R/O

(Stats & details from Aces High 2nd Edition - Shores & Williams)


Related Sites :

Willy at Jever 1953


Thanks go out to

Professor Chas Williamson at Cornell University for the pix & infos !

On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.

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