This year, 2021, Australia celebrates the centenary of the Royal Australian Airforce, or the RAAF. Over the year, many activities have been held at various locations. More specifically to Moonta, we acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Sir Richard Williams. Widely considered to be the father of the RAAF, Sir Richard Williams was born in Moonta.
The below is adapted from Ms Robyn Knights book: Sir Richard Williams KBE, CB, DSO Father of the RAAF Then Now Always
Born into a modest mining family in Moonta Mines in 1890, Richard Williams emerged to become the most instrumental figure in the development of the RAAF. Attending Moonta Public School, he initially worked in the Moonta Post Office and then the Union Bank before joining the militia and then the permanent military forces after which he was posted to Victoria. In November 1914, he graduated as Australia’s first military trained pilot and served as a Flight Commander and then Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in the Middle East. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in August 1917 for attacking an enemy force while flying through intense anti-aircraft fire and landing behind enemy lines to rescue a downed fellow pilot. Appointed Officer Commanding No 40 Wing (RAF), he completed the war as the AFC’s foremost operational commander.
Returning to Australia, Williams was instrumental in the creation of the Royal Australian Air Force as an independent service in 1921. Showing immense political acumen, he then fought to not only preserve but to actually expand the fledgling RAAF over the next two decades, serving as the initial Chief of Air Staff and its longest serving leader over thirteen years in three separate terms.
Promoted to air vice-marshal in 1935, he became the RAAF’s first air marshal in 1940. Ironically, Williams lost the support of his political masters and spent most of the Second World War in Britain and the USA. Forced into retirement from the RAAF in 1946, Williams served as the Director-General of Civil Aviation, but his enduring legacy is being known as the Father of the RAAF and probably the most significant figure in its history.
Some of our photos are courtesy of the Australian War Memorial and the South Australian Museum. Acknowledgments and further references are available from our reference material at the centre.
Moonta has and will have many celebrations over the course of the year to celebrate this remarkable man, culminating with the unveiling of a lifelike statue on the 7th of November 2021.
You can follow the progress of this statue through the updates on the associated Facebook page.
Below, is a PowerPoint presentation created by Robyn for this unveiling.
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