Inducted in 2022
Sir Richard Williams KBE CB DSO
1890 - 1980
Born on the 3rd of August, 1890 in Melbourne, Australia, Sir Richard Williams interest in flying began at age 24. Williams participated in Australia's earliest military flying course at Central Flying School in Victoria. He was the very first graduate, finishing his course only two months after starting. Continuing to seek further piloting skills, Williams undertook advanced flying training a year later - and the skills he built during this time would shape the rest of his life & career.
During World War I, Williams was promoted from lieutenant to captain. His time as a flight commander in the Squadron Australian Flying Corps saw him experience multiple risky adventures and near-misses. He narrowly avoided crash-landings and braved enemy lines to rescue fellow lieutenants.
However it was the inter-war years which would see Williams greatest achievements unfold. After undertaking a new administrate role once again in Melbourne, Williams chose to cease usage of army ranks and instead looked towards the ranks used in the Royal Air Force. Following the establishment of the Australian Air Board in 1920, Williams sought to gain independence from both the Army and Australian navy. With this aim, he carefully organized and presented a submission from the Air Board. Despite some hesitation, their proposal was successful. His legacy was consolidated: William's belief in creating an independent arm for aviation and efforts in doing so earned him his title as the "father" of the RAAF.
The Australian Air Force was officially established on the 31st of March 1921. Five months later, the 'Royal' title would be added.
His role as First Air Member, later named Chief of the Air Staff, was essential consolidating the service. With his focus on training and expanding their existing assets. Williams was determined to create more opportunities for training pilots. He would go on to found a program which trained already existing students & graduates from the Army and Navy. To grow the self-sufficient nature of the Air Force, Williams fiercely encouraged development of Australia's aircraft industry.
His time in leadership did not go without challenges. There was questioning regarding the air safety practices in the RAAF, and public and government scrutiny struck down following an incident which resulted in the death of one pilot in 1937. Some felt William's leadership style was more independent and then collaborative. Additionally, the Great Depression meant the RAAF's existence was threatened at points. Despite some uncertainty, the RAAF continued to operate.
At the time of World War II's break out in 1939, Williams was no longer serving a leadership role in the RAAF. Nonetheless, recognising his immense contribution, Williams was appointed Air Member for Organisation and Equipment. He was then promoted to air marshal, and was the first to achieve this rank in the RAAF.
Williams retired in 1946, despite not yet reaching the mandatory age of 60. Continuing his work in aviation, he was then appointed as the Director-General of Civil Aviation. This role would last for almost ten years. In 1954 his contribution was honoured and he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Williams published his memoirs in 1977, and passed on the 7th of February, 1890. His funeral was an Air Force send off appropriate for the "father of the RAAF", with a seventeen aircraft fly-past. He continues to remain the RAAF's longest serving Chief, with thirteen years in total.