Bomber Command Medal presented at RAF Halton

  |  Published: Jun 15th 2013

RAF Halton’s Station Commander, Group Captain Simon Harper, has presented a member of Bomber Command with the Bomber Command Clasp.  The presentation was held in the splendour of Halton House and the recipient was Warrant Officer (Retd) Cecil David Williams (known as David). The event came about when David’s son wrote to the Station Commander to ask if his father could be given his medal at RAF Halton because of his links with the Station. 

A Clasp to the 1939 to 1945 Star is granted to the aircrew of Bomber Command who served for at least sixty days, or completed a tour of operations, on a Bomber Command operational unit and flew at least one operational sortie between the 3rd September 1939 and the 8th May, 1945. 

Warrant Officer Williams was called up for service, and joined the RAF, in June 1942 after completing his Teacher Training.  He began operations in June 1943 as a navigator at RAF Leconfield with No.196 Squadron, completing night bombings on enemy ports and industrial centres in Europe in the Vickers Wellington Aircraft.  He also played an active part in mine laying operations, including in July 1943, the mining of the U-Boat pens at St Nazaire. 

In October 1943, during operations over Kassel, his aircraft was ambushed by a German fighter, and during an attempt to land at RAF Coltishall on two engines, a further engine cut out resulting in the aircraft crash landing.  All crew were injured, and his life was saved by a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force who pulled him from the wreckage, he suffered two broken ankles and a broken leg.

He returned to active operations in June 1944, serving with 514 squadron in the Lancaster 2, and was in the air over the beaches in Normandy during the D-Day landings. 

In July of that year he was honoured with the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal and received a congratulatory telegram from Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, Commander in Chief, Bomber Command at that time.

In February 1945 he volunteered for a third tour of duty, and was invited to join 138 (Special Duties) Squadron, known as the Moonlight Squadron.  He was tasked with dropping agents and equipment of the Special Operations Executive inside occupied territory.  The casualty rate was much higher than other squadrons but his ability to navigate expertly helped keep the crew alive. 

On 9th April 1945, he took part in the raid on ‘Kiel’, which resulted in the sinking of the Pocked Battleship Admiral Scheer’, and later in the month took part in the start of the food dropping operations to the starving Dutch people, after which he took part in Exodus operations, repatriating Prisoners of War.

Victory in Europe day came and he is still known to quote the words of Wordsworth fondly when remembering this date, saying ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven’.  Having completed 3 tours when the war in Europe ended, he received the Clasp to the Aircrew Europe medal.  Despite his intense service, he volunteered to go to The Far East, but the war ended before he could be despatched.

On 31st July 1946 he was ‘de-mobbed’, and left the Royal Air Force to embark on his teaching career.  His Commanding Officer at the time wrote a note in his Service and Release Book reading: ‘This Warrant Officer possesses an engaging personality which will be a great asset for his future career. I.e. School Master’.  This proved to be so, as he went on to spend the rest of his working life as a committed teacher. In 1947, the now Mr Williams took up post as a resident master at the Foundling Hospital School in Berkhamsted, and following a number of moves, he took up the post of Headmaster at the Halton Middle School where he spent 15 very happy years.  The school served the local community, which included many children from RAF Halton.  David maintained close links with the RAF, including holding Honorary Member status of Halton House Officers’ Mess. 

Warrant Officer William’s son, Robin, spoke on behalf of his father and family, saying: “I would like to thank Group Captain Harper and Visits Officer, Flt Lt Dave Bliss for organising this wonderful occasion.  The Aircrew Clasp presented to my Father today takes the place of a campaign medal which was not presented to the Aircrew of Bomber Command in 1945.  The reasons for this are well documented and I do not see any purpose in revisiting them now.  Suffice to say that of the 125,000 aircrew that took to the skies over Europe between 1939 and 1945, 55,000 never returned. My Father was one of the lucky ones who survived to live a long and happy life.  In truth, is it not we, the generation that come after, that are really the lucky ones.  The freedoms we have today are ours by the sacrifice of those who fought and died and are maintained by those in our armed forces who do so today.

Group Captain Harper said: “It has been a real privilege for me to welcome you to RAF Halton today and present the Clasp to the Bomber Command Medal. This is a truly special occasion for us and we are humbled and privileged to hear of the achievements of so many.  We honour today, and everyday, the sacrifices of these people and also note their courage and professionalism.”

Flight Lieutenant Dave Bliss,Halton’s Visits and Protocol Officer, who organized the day, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure.  Some visits that come along are just very special, as this one was, and we couldn’t do enough for the family.”

Warrant Officer (Retd) Cecil David Williams
with Group Captain Harper, Commander of RAF Halton
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