Lieutenant Cyril Williams

Lieutenant Cyril Williams was an Observer on a Morane BB (5193) aircraft, Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Squadron No. 60 in France during WW1.

Cyril was born on 5 June 1986 at Argyll Place, Edinburgh, the elder son of George Thomas Williams, Civil Engineer, and Elizabeth Fenton, of Fenton’s Shipbuilder and Wood Merchants, Perth. Cyril had two sisters, Doris born in Edinburgh and Winifred, born in Shimla (शिमला), Himachal Pradesh, India. Cyril also had two brothers, Alan McGregor born in Perth and Donald Murray born in Udaipur, India.

Cyril’s father was the state engineer of Rajasthan in India. The family lived in Udaipur (उदयपुर), also known as the “City of Lakes”. When the family returned home to Scotland, they lived at Craigie Park, Craigie, Perth. Cyril went to Perth Academy and in 1910 they moved back to Edinburgh where Cyril attended the High School as a day boy. The career chosen for Cyril was the Army, he had served in the Edinburgh University Training Corps as a cadet and in 1914, he passed the competitive Sandhurst Entrance Examination. He attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in January 1914 and joined the Highland Light Infantry as a second Lieutenant in September 1914 and was posted to France.

During the Battle of the Somme (21 June 1916 – 18 November 1916) on 30 July 1916, at about 4.10pm, 4 Morane Saulnier Type BB and Type N biplanes of RFC 60 Squadron took off from Vert Galand aerodrome, 20 kms north of Amien. They were on reconnaissance patrol over the area of Saint-Quentin (80 km west) when they were attacked by German LVG two seaters. The weather was slightly clear, and the German fighters came out in force. Some twenty-five attacked crossing over the lines of the British fourth army. From midday the fighting was ceaseless for some hours.

The aircraft of Captain Lesley Stafford Charles age 21 years and Lieutenant Cyril Williams age 20 years was a French made Morane Saulnier Type BB, no. 5193. It was seen going down, smoking, and was forced to land over Estrées, to the south of Douai. Cyril Williams was killed in the air fight and Captain Charles was taken prisoner, he later died of his wounds.

Lieutenant Cyril Williams was at the time of his death was the son of Mrs. Williams of 3 Abbey Road, Eskbank, Midlothian, and the late G. T. Williams, State Engineer, Meywar, Rajputana, India. Before joining the RFC, Cyril served with the Highland Light Infantry. Lieutenant Williams is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial, France.

Captain Charles had only graduated as Flying Officer on 2 June 1916. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Stafford Charles, of Woodside House, Chenies, Bucks. He was born at Stanmore, Middlesex and before joining the RAF served with the 6th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He is commemorated at Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension, France


Major Robert Smith-Barry, (later to revolutionise British pilot training), was a flight commander with RFC 60 Squadron from July to December 1916. During that month of July 1916, the squadron had suffered twelve casualties. He informed Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Dowding; the Commanding Officer of 9th Wing that he would not send new pilots over the lines with less than 7 hours flying time. Dowding agreed and informed Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig of his decision to temporarily withdraw the squadron from active duty.

The squadron re-equipped with Nieuport 17 C.1 Scouts and soon acquired a first-class reputation. On 2 June 1917, Captain W. A. “Billy” Bishop (Canadian) received the Victoria Cross for his solo attack on a German aerodrome destroying three enemy aircraft in the air and several ‘probables’ on the ground before returning unhurt in a damaged aircraft. A month later, Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 fighters arrived, and these remained with the squadron until it was disbanded on 22 January 1920

Haig commanded the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war. During WW2 Air Chief Marshal Hugh Caswall Tremenheere Dowding, 1st Baron Dowding was Air Officer Commanding RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and is credited with playing a crucial role in Britain’s defence, and hence, the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s plan to invade Britain. Dowding was born in Moffat, Dumfriesshire.

The Battle of the Somme was a battle fought by the armies of the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the river Somme, France. More than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history. On 30 July 1916, the Allies advanced north of Somme, from Delville Wood (Bois d’Elville) to the river. The British made progress east of Waterlot Farm and Trones Wood; the French reached the outskirts of Maurepas and the German attack on left bank of Meuse was repulsed.

Shimla was the summer capital of British India, and it was at the terminus of the famous narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla railway which was completed in 1903.

The LVG German two-seat reconnaissance biplanes were designed at the Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft for the Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Force, known before October 1916 as the Fliegertruppen (Flying Troops). Introduced in late 1915, the LVG C.II had the pilot and observer positions reversed, a top speed of 130 km/h (81 mph, 70 kn) with a fixed, forward-firing 7.92 mm (.312 in) and a flexible 7.92 mm (.312 in) ring-mounted machine gun to the rear. The LVG C.IV was the first fixed-wing aircraft to bomb London, when six bombs were dropped near Victoria station on 28 November 1916 (The first air raid on London was by the Zeppelin LZ 38, in the early hours of 1 June 1915).

Perhaps the most famous British air ace of the First World War was posted to RFC 60 Squadron three weeks after the death of Cyril Williams. Captain Albert Ball already had 11 victories whilst with 13,11 and 8 Squadron RFC. He was the RFC’s highest scoring pilot at the time. He went on to add another 20 victories with RFC 60 squadron. Ball increased his tally to 17 by the end of the month including having shot down three aircraft on 23 August 1916. Albert Ball was not a conventional type of pilot, he was innovative and developed many new combat techniques. For example, in the evening of 15 September 1916 he fitted to his wing struts, 8 Le Prieur rockets (Fusées Le Prieur) deigned to fire electronically. His intention was to shoot down an observation balloon, but he spotted a formation of 3 German LFG Roland C.II aircraft. He fired the rockets at them, breaking up their formation and then proceeded to shoot them down one at a time with his machine gun. Albert Ball was the winner of a Military Cross and a Distinguished Service Order and Bar, he was shot down on 7 May 1917 also near Douai and was buried at Annœullin by the Germans with full military honours. Ball was last seen by fellow pilots pursuing the red Albatros D.III of the Red Baron’s younger brother, Lothar von Richthofen. His final tally was 45 victories. Albert Ball was posthumously awarded, by France, the Croix de Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur and the Victoria Cross was presented by King George V to his parents.

Lieutenant Cyril Williams
Lieutenant Cyril Williams
LIEUTENANT CYRIL WILLIAMS, HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY AND NO. 60 SQUADRON, ROYAL FLYING CORPS (HU 93574) Lt Williams, an observer, was reported missing, aged 20, together with his pilot near St Quentin on 30 July 1916. He is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. The pilot, Captain Leslie Stafford Charles, is buried in Roisel Communal Cemtery Extension. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
BRITISH AIRCRAFT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 69336) Morane-Saulnier BB two-seat observation biplane. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
FRENCH AIRCRAFT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 67548) Morane-Saulnier BB two-seat reconnaissance biplane. Note the spare wheel under the port wing. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
ACES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND THEIR AIRCRAFT (Q 107324) Captain Albert Ball VC, holding an aircraft spinner. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
The Last Fight of Captain Ball, VC, DSO and 2 Bars, MC, 7th May 1917 (Art.IWM ART 1488) Image: An aerial view of a dogfight between one British and three German aircraft. To the left one plane plummets streaming a trail of grey smoke behind. Below lies the faint outline of fields and lakes on the ground. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
Jacket, Service Dress (Maternity pattern): Captain, RFC (UNI 11617) This jacket was given to the Imperial War Museum after the First World War by Captain Ball’s father. The distinctive pattern of tunic was first introduced in 1911. Although the RFC originated from the Royal Engineer Balloon Sections, the ethos of the new corps may be summarised as owing much to the idea of a ‘Cavalry’ of the Air. The pattern of tunic worn by other ranks and those officers commissi… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: