Charlie Williams BEM and the Crashed Beaufighter
During the war Charlie was a young farm worker employed by Mr Ron Smith of Guarlford Court.
On the 22nd April 1944, he was working in a rickyard when he saw an RAF Beaufighter, apparently in difficulties, fly low over South Wood, crash in a field beyond, and then burst into flames.
He tied up his horse and ran through the woods to the aircraft where he found one of the crew, an RAF sergeant, with a badly broken shoulder, sheltering behind a crab apple tree. Asked if anyone was still in the plane, the sergeant replied, "Yes, the pilot, but you won't save him."
Charlie ran to the plane and found the pilot, badly injured and trapped in the cockpit. Charlie later recalled, "I was young and strong. It was too hot to mess about, so I put my arms through and ripped him out, seat, parachute, the lot."
As he got clear of the aircraft, its ammunition began to explode. Charlie's father and Mr Wall from Grove House got the pilot to the relative safety of a nearby ditch, while Charlie ran for an ambulance.
"Young Williams undoubtedly saved the pilot's life," said Mr Wall. "Three minutes later and he would have been burned to death."
The pilot was an Australian named Bob Morris. Charlie received a letter of tribute from an Air Commodore, as did 18-year-old Miss Christine Chester, sister of Keith and daughter of Captain Chester, who helped comfort the pilot in the ditch.
The RAF sent men to guard the wrecked aircraft. Mrs Dorrie Smith related how she invited them into Guarlford Court for a meal and afterwards they all stood round the piano and sang the songs of the day; then the airmen slept the night on the dining room floor.
Later, Charlie Williams went to Buckingham Palace to receive the British Empire Medal from the King in well-deserved recognition of his bravery.
Bob Morris made a full recovery from the incident, after spending nine months in hospital suffering from a broken pelvis and serious burns. Before returning to Australia with his English wife, he visited Charlie and later, from Australia, sent him a cable on the occasion of Charlie's twenty-first birthday. Bob Morris died in 2002.
In 2003, his son Stanley travelled to England,
and exactly fifty-nine years after the Beaufighter incident he met
Charlie and presented him with the wallet his father carried during
the crash and the last photograph taken of his father with his
grandchildren around him. "These are the people to whom you
gave life," said Stanley.
Reproduced from 'The Guarlford Story'