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Leonard Huon Williamson (1921–1989)

by David Wilson

This article was published:

Leonard Huon Williamson (1921-1989), air force officer, was born on 24 April 1921 at Annandale, Sydney, youngest of seven children of John Alexander Williamson, retired builder, and his wife Ada Mary Theobald, née Hannell. Len attended Petersham Boys’ Intermediate High and Fort Street Boys’ High schools. From 1937 he worked as a clerk for Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. (Australasia) Ltd, then for Selfridges (Australasia) Ltd. In February 1939 he joined the Militia as a gunner and on 18 September 1940 enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force.

After qualifying as a pilot in Australia and England, Williamson was commissioned in May 1941 and posted in December to No.107 Squadron, Royal Air Force, which operated Blenheim bombers from Malta. In January 1942 he transferred to another Blenheim-equipped unit, No.211 Squadron, RAF, based in Cairo. The squadron immediately deployed to the Netherlands East Indies, where it suffered heavy losses and was disbanded. Williamson was evacuated to Australia, arriving in Perth on 20 March. He carried out flying duties and underwent operational training before being posted in November 1943 to No.22 Squadron, RAAF, as a flight commander. From airfields on Kiriwina, and then Noemfoor, islands, he flew Boston light bombers on low-level attacks against Japanese forces. Twelve months later he returned to Australia and, at the cessation of hostilities in 1945, was a test pilot at No.2 Aircraft Depot, Richmond, New South Wales.

In 1947 Williamson was promoted to temporary squadron leader. At St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Kensington, Adelaide, on 25 February 1949, he married Margaret Nell Marshall, née Jones. He assumed command of No.1 Squadron in January 1950. The unit was based at Tengah, Singapore, from July, operating Lincoln heavy bombers against communist terrorists in Malaya (Malaysia). Williamson remained in command until March 1951, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for completing forty-six sorties, ‘often in conditions of bad weather and visibility’, over difficult, mountainous country; and for proving himself ‘a born leader of men’.

Following a course (1952-53) at the RAF Flying College, Manby, England, Williamson commenced a series of command and staff appointments in Australia and in 1955 gained promotion to wing commander. He undertook exchange duties with the United States Air Force in 1959-62. Back home, he commanded the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, Laverton, Victoria, as a group captain, in 1963-66. His wife having died in 1965, on 28 December that year at the Methodist Church, Chatswood South, Sydney, he married Patricia Anne Chapman, a nurse. In 1967 he attended the Imperial Defence College, London. He was director-general of organisation at Air Force Headquarters, Canberra, in 1968-69. Promoted to temporary air commodore (substantive, 1970), he was Australian air attaché, Washington, in 1969-72.

Williamson’s final appointment was as senior air staff officer at Headquarters, Operational Command, Penrith, New South Wales. He transferred to the Retired List on 28 February 1976 and took a position with Marconi Avionics Ltd, Sydney. With his impressive bearing, friendly and co-operative nature and conscientious approach to his duties, he had been an excellent commander and a generally effective staff officer. He died of coronary artery disease on 9 August 1989 in his home at Newport and was cremated. His wife and their two sons, and the three daughters of his first marriage, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Odgers, Air War Against Japan 1943-1945 (1957)
  • D. Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942 (1962)
  • P. Dennis and J. Grey, Emergency and Confrontation (1996)
  • ‘RAAF Personnel of 211 Squadron’ (, accessed September 2010, copy held on ADB file
  • National Archives of Australia. A12372, items R/21972/H and R/21972/P

Citation details

David Wilson, 'Williamson, Leonard Huon (1921–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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