Empty Chair ceremony will honour Lionel Williams

Ladysmith Rotary is asking for stories about and photos of Lionel Williams, who will be honoured in November.

As most residents of Ladysmith are aware, every November during the week of Remembrance Day, the Ladysmith Rotary, in co-operation with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 171, holds a special ceremony at Eagles Hall to honour a local individual who gave his life in service to his country.

The airman to be recognized at the 2012 Veteran’s Remembrance Dinner will be Lionel Harry Williams from Saltair. Flight Sergeant Williams and the crew of his Halifax bomber were shot down Oct. 2, 1942, by antiaircraft fire near Noorwijk, Holland, while outbound for a bombing mission over Krefeld, Germany.

Lionel Williams was the eldest son of David and Ethel Williams, originally from Cardiff, Wales, who immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s. His father had served with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles before being invalided home in 1917.

Lionel was born Dec. 30, 1917, in Medicine Hat, Alta., but moved to Saltair in 1935 with his parents and two brothers, Jack and Welwyn. School records are missing or incomplete, but we do know that Lionel attended Ladysmith High School in 1935 and likely graduated from there in 1937 or 1938. His classmates at that time included Keith Gourlay, Winnifred McBride, Verna Godfrey, Henry Berto, Betty Thomas , Joy Lang, Marion Quayle, Joe Watson and Hermione Spurling.

After graduation, Lionel went to work for the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Duncan, but his true love was sports. Early residents of the area remember him as a strong freestyler who often swam out as far as Boulder Point. Lionel had also been the Amateur Lightweight Boxing Champion of Alberta and continued this sport in B.C. until he enlisted in July 1941.

If you have any information, pictures or recollections of Lionel Williams or his family, please contact David Walbanks (250 245-1431) or Ed Nicholson (kaixin@mac.com) so that we can complete our portrait of this local hero in time for the Empty Chair ceremony.

— Submitted by Ed Nicholson