View Full Version : Obituary of last WW1 pilot

25th Sep 2002, 08:48
Someone told me that an obituary recently appeared for a man who had been the last surviving pilot to fly in World War 1. Having been travelling and seeing no newspapers for a while, I missed it and cannot find anything on the newspaper websites. Did anyone notice anything of this sort?

25th Sep 2002, 10:45
Try the Daily Telegraph (I think) on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of last week. (Thursday is most probable). A good public library will still have back issues.


25th Sep 2002, 11:18
Thanks for that, although it does not appear on the Telegraph website.

Tiger_ Moth
25th Sep 2002, 18:51
Please post what you find out FNG because I'd be interested to know. I'm very surprised that there were any left at this time. Amazing to think that they flew back then when people were still walking slowly towards machine guns on the ground and using cavalry! And to think that they lived through the whole 20th century.

25th Sep 2002, 19:44
This is a post to the uk.rec.aviation newsgroup by Mike Mitchell (dated 20th September):

In today's 'Daily Mail' there is an obituary to Hurbert Williams aged 106. He was the last surviving Royal Flying Corps pilot. He joined in 1915 when the life expectancy was about 3 weeks. He was flying until 1917 when he was shot down over Macedonia and badly injured. He rejoined the RAF in WW2 in training and finally left as a squadron leader. In his 100th year he sat at the controls of Concorde. The RAF will pay him a special tribute by laying a wreath with the Royal Flying Corps badge at his funeral next week.

The Sun also have a story here:


26th Sep 2002, 08:39
Thanks for that Damien: I didn't think to look at tabloid websites and am surprised that the Sun carried the story while the grown-up newspapers did not. Note the usual reference to biplanes as "flimsy": I would rather crash in a Tiger Moth than in a PA-28 any day, although it's fair to say that WW1 machines weren't quite as tough as the inter-war designs.

As you say, T-M, fancy living through the whole 20th Century, and what a rotten century to live through (I only caught the last four decades of it, which weren't as bad as the earlier ones, though bad enough). By the way, T-M, there was a bit of cavalry in WW2 as well (on the Eastern Front, at least), and the Germans in particular often had more horses than they had trucks.

26th Sep 2002, 08:53
Posted in full, in case the link is removed:

"TOUCHING tributes were paid yesterday to hero pilot Hubert Williams - last survivor of the Royal Flying Corps - who died aged 106.

The World War One Veterans Association said: "It is truly the end of an era." The Western Front Association said: "He makes all of us feel so humble." And his family said: "We are very proud of him."

Hubert flew Sopwith Camel biplanes on bombing raids over German lines within weeks of joining up at 20 and was shot down and nearly killed two years later. But he always said modestly: "I'm no hero - I just consider myself a remarkably lucky man to have survived."

He once said: "I was keen to get cracking to stop the enemy coming into the country. We knew we might die but we were prepared to die for our country.

"I can remember the bombing, the shrapnel, shells going off all around, the guns flashing. It was terrible. There was smoke everywhere. I could hear people screaming and there was masses of blood.

"I remember waving to one colleague and the next second he was a ball of flames.

"He was shot down by a German plane and I expected the same to happen to me at any second."

Hubert joined the RFC - which later became the RAF - in 1915 despite a pilot's life expectancy being "only hours". But the pay of two shillings and eight pence a day - less than 14p - was better than the Army or Navy.

After "training" - seven hours' flying around a field in a glider - he saw action over German trenches at the Somme in 1916.

At 22 he was shot down over Macedonia in Greece. Villagers pulled him unconscious from the wreck and he spent nine months in hospital in Malta.

When the Second World War began Hubert joined the RAF, training pilots to fly and reaching the rank of Squadron Leader.

On his 100th birthday he was allowed to take the controls of Concorde on a flight to New York.

When he was 102 a French consul visited his Cardiff nursing home to present him with the Legion d'Honneur bravery award.

World War One Veterans Association head Dennis Goodwin said last night Hubert was one of "a band of pioneering pilots who were brave beyond the call of duty.

"They knew every time they went into the air that the odds against returning alive were heavily stacked against them."

Vernon Davies, South Wales chairman of the Western Front Association, said: "They took their lives in their hands every time they stepped in the cockpit."

Hubert's daughter Marcia Cornish, 70, said: "He was a modest man who never spoke of his time in the RFC until the last few years."

The RAF will pay tribute to Hubert at his funeral next week when a senior officer will lay a wreath with the RFC badge."

26th Sep 2002, 19:17
"I would rather crash in a Tiger Moth than in a PA-28 any day, although it's fair to say that WW1 machines weren't quite as tough as the inter-war designs."

Most Biplanes, especially wooden ones will crumple round you and be more surviveable than a modern "tin can" ! :)

Back to the subject, Wonderful to hear the story of one who did so much so long ago - RIP.