Harpenden town links with Spitfire hero at centre of memorial

Harold Williams, Spitfire pilot

Harold Williams, Spitfire pilot - Credit: Photo supplied

A touching ceremony has been held to pay tribute to two Spitfire pilots who died in a mid-air collision, with a relative of the Harpenden-based sister of one of the men in attendance.

A memorial service has been held for the Spitfire pilots, one of whom had family in Harpenden

A memorial service has been held for the Spitfire pilots, one of whom had family in Harpenden - Credit: Photo supplied

Last month, the Herts Advertiser was approached by Martin Painter, who was urgently seeking immediate family or relatives of Harold Williams in Harpenden to attend a memorial service he was organising.

Harold died as a result of a mid-air collision with fellow Spitfire pilot John Brewster during the Second World War, in an accident over Seagry on April 6, 1941.

Martin initially struggled to find surviving family of Harold ahead of a ceremony organised to take place on September 14 at a new £1,500 memorial constructed in the village of Seagry, Wiltshire, to commemorate the young RAF pilots.

Harold’s sister, Irene Sylvia Brown (née Williams), lived at Roundwood Park in Harpenden until her death in November 2003.


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Following an article in this paper, Martin was told that Irene wrote a book One Woman’s War describing and illustrating family events during the war.

He was contacted by a close friend of the family who was Irene’s carer for many years.

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After a further appeal on radio, Martin was approached by Harold and Irene’s cousin’s daughter, who joined about 500 people attending the memorial service, which included a Spitfire tribute display.

Martin said: “We have now found the last surviving branch of the Williams family and they are delighted this has happened. The ceremony was very touching as we had representatives of both families there, and they walked up to the memorial and laid a wreath.”

Also in attendance was Doug Wiltshire, who witnessed the plane crash.

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