LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Harley Joseph WILLIAMS

Service No: 408311
Born: Launceston TAS, 20 February 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 October 1941
Unit: No. 100 Squadron, Milne Bay, PNG
Died: Air Operations (No. 100 Squadron Beaufort aircraft A9-374), New Guinea, 5 September 1943, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Joseph and Elvie May Williams, of Launceston, Tasmania.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 36, Rabaul Memorial, PNG
Remembered: Panel 105, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

The Bostons returned to Gasmata at dawn next morning and found that the enemy had carried out repair work overnight. They dropped bombs which struck the centre and eastern end of the runway where the repairs had been made. It was vital that this airfield should be kept out of action because, on this morning of 5th September, transport aircraft were to drop the American and Australian parachute landing force at Nadzab, and aircraft were to set down part of the 7th Division as soon as a landing field could be made ready. Beauforts of No. 100 Squadron were therefore ordered to follow the Bostons and press home their attacks on Gasmata. Ten of them, led by Flight Lieutenant Roy Woollacott and protected above by eight Kittyhawks of No. 76 Squadron, arrived on the scene just after 7 a .m. An earlier visit of the Bostons had put the enemy defences on the alert. The Beauforts had five tons of bombs to drop, and they approached in a shallow dive starting at about 3,000 feet and coming down to 1,500. This was a dangerously low level for slow aircraft, but the Australians had often bombed this airfield and had not before met strong opposition. On this day, however, the enemy was waiting and opened up with a sudden and unexpectedly heavy box barrage. It was impossible to avoid this deadly fire, but the pilots gamely sent their Beauforts through it. Five aircraft were immediately hit. Woollacott’s machine was among these, but, although it was in flames, he gallantly continued his run and his four bombs exploded on the runway. The aircraft crashed immediately, and Woollacott and his crew (Flight Sergeant James Sugg, Flight Sergeant Harley Williams and Flight Sergeant William Pedler) were killed.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 76

Beaufort A9-374 took off from Gurney strip, Milne Bay at 0518 hours on 5 September 1943 to carry out a bombing attack on Gasmata, New Britain. At approximately 0750 hours when the attack was carried out at 1,500 feet, the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire but continued the attack and dropped its bombs scoring a direct hit on the target. Immediately afterwards the aircraft went into a dive and crashed into the water exploding on impact. None of the crew members were seen to bale out.

The crew members of A9-374 were:

Flight Sergeant William Theodore Pedler (416608) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant James Albert Sugg (416085) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant Harley Joseph Williams (408311) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Lieutenant Roy Herbert Woollacott MID (407144) (Pilot)

No. 100 Squadron lost Beaufort A9-186 (Warrant Officer Charles Batstone Wiggins (405335) (Pilot)) on 5 September 1943.

No. 100 lost Beaufort aircraft A9-1830 (Flying Officer Robert Barclay Anderson MID (409070) (Pilot)) on 5 September 1943.

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9845, 254

Bibliography:

Graham, B. (Burton) and Frank Smyth, A Nation Grew Wings: The Story of the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons in New Guinea, Winterset House Publishers Melbourne VIC, 1946
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990

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