mulberry daria bag Late Amarillo businessman served alongside British soldiers during World War II
soldiers were stationed on the British Isles or passed through to continental Europe during the war. In an interview just after New Year Williams said he and his buddies got along fine with the English people during his four years at the Thorpe Abbotts air base near Norwich in eastern England.
has fond memories of them, said his wife, Medora, 77, who helped with the interview because of Williams health condition. would give them his cigarettes, because he didn smoke, and they give him eggs. Britain had been at war with Germany since 1939, and after Japan Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States began sending troops across both the Pacific and the Atlantic. Williams was one of several thousand who reached England in 1942 on the British ship Queen Elizabeth.
The Lorena native had enlisted before Pearl Harbor and recalled that during the voyage to England the British broadcaster William Joyce known as Haw Haw was announcing the location coordinates of the Queen Elizabeth on the radio. Joyce was a Nazi propagandist based in Hamburg.
To avoid Nazi U boats, the ship traveled as far south as Jamaica on the trip to England. Of course, Williams said, the Queen Elizabeth was heavily armed.
Unable to complete flight training because of an inner ear problem, Capt. Robert Henry Williams became an administrator at the Thorpe Abbotts base, home of the 100th Bomber Group, known as the 100th. He was an Army Air Corps captain in the 351st Bombardment Squadron, handling such duties as transportation, payroll and sorting the belongings of the many airmen who didn make it back from bombing runs over Germany and other sites in Nazi occupied Europe.
had to go through their personal effects and make sure there wasn anything the family didn need to see, Medora said. was not easy duty. These were friends he had gotten acquainted with. is known as a key target of German air raids, but other parts of England also suffered attacks. According to a military magazine clip in Williams scrapbook, English bases were laid out haphazardly but on purpose, to protect from raids. If barracks and other facilities had been neatly arranged together, bombing damage could have been more serious. Thorpe Abbotts spread out design also allowed more room for growing food in the days of strict rationing.
we got to eat for the first three months was beef stew, Williams said. breakfast, they put biscuits on it. It was corned beef from Argentina. Abbotts was attacked only twice, Williams said, with no loss of life. were strafed, he said. fighter pilots strafed us. But, like Londoners, the base residents were accustomed to spending time in bomb shelters, and returning planes occasionally executed crash landings.
Williams said his group lost 273 bombers during the war during runs over factories, bridges and other German targets. He recalled one mission over the Netherlands that airlifted provisions to the population. His base was directly west across the English Channel from Amsterdam.
planes dropped food over Holland, he said. were hurting for food, and we flew over at 500 feet. servicemen in England who stayed as long as Williams knew the cold weather and the landscape. Medora described the available transportation.
had a bicycle, she said. what he had to ride into town on. She said bicycles had to be pushed up and over stiles, or steps that allowed them to go over railroad tracks.
Williams World War II scrapbook was a 2010 gift from Air Force friend Bob Spellacy. It includes photos of life on the base as well as copies of mission reports. A July 30, 1943, report provides a word picture of a bombing operation over Kassel, Germany. Some excerpts:
and bombs away at 0935. Terrific damage seen throughout. Large mushroom like column of smoke seen immediately rising to between 15 and 20,000 ft. Flak and fighters followed us from coast to target and return. Over target, flak concentrated and accurate. Received hits on our plane and most every plane received flak holes. We had about 7 or 8 flak holes to distinguish between enemy and P47 but didn fire unless attacked. 100th Grp. lost no planes, but other groups lost between 4 planes. Am a firm believer in tighter and tighter formations. group leader ended with this recommendation:
that new pilots fly 100 hours of battle formation, very closely, before tackling Gerry. It would prevent 80% of ship losses. or was a term referring to the German enemy.
Another report included a personal complaint:
crews suffered severe cold. Wish to h they send us some electric suits to replace those that won work. It is impossible to work efficiently at hi alt. under very cold weather otherwise. planes had names such as Eagle, Sal, Baby, Riveters, A Snappin and Lilly. Oct. 8, 1943, mission to Bremen, Germany, illustrates the origin of the name, 100th. Of 21 bombers on the mission, seven and their crews did not return.
Williams didn fly on bombing missions, but he and others on the ground enabled them to happen. He saw the reports and knew who did and didn return to base. At his passing last month, he decreased by one the roughly 558,000 living American World War II survivors, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. About 16 million Americans served in the war, and just more than 30,000 remain in Texas.
Williams came home on another British ship, the Queen Mary. He said it normally carried about 4,000 people but that 24,000 crowded onto its decks for the return trip at war end.
sure you seen the pictures of when they came back, Medora said. was really something. a civilian in Amarillo since 1946, Williams completed his degree at the University of Texas at Austin and became a partner and later full owner of Builders Supply at Southwest Seventh Avenue and South Travis Street. He met Medora, a Houston native, on a fishing outing one of their mutual loves and they were married for 40 years.
After a memorial service at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, Williams was buried in Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Katherine Lynn Davis. Survivors include his wife, Medora of Amarillo; his sister, Martha Harper of Salado; a niece; a nephew; two stepsons; six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
In his last week, Williams did not feel well enough to talk much. But the pride in his Army Air Corps service showed through as he finished talking to a visitor: