David Reginald ‘Reg’ Williams
Reg and his brother Percy ran William Brothers Motorcycle Shop at 22 Summer Street in Orange. A keen motorcyclist, Reg competed in many races. In January 1915 he received the highest award in the Melbourne to Sydney Motor Cycle Reliability Trial. Reg was the only competitor to complete the return journey, riding 1350 miles in eight days.
When the School of Aviation at Richmond was established Reg was one of the first cadets to enlist. Such was his aptitude for flying that Reg received his pilot’s certificate after just seven hours of instruction. He remained at Richmond as an instructor until June 1917 when he was posted to England as part of the Australian Flying Corps. 21 year old Reg did not reach the fighting line, but delivered new aircraft from England to France.
At the conclusion of the war the Commonwealth Government offered £10,000 prize money for the first Australian to fly from England to Australia – a distance of 19,000 kilometres – in 30 days. This was the very first long distance air race, and given that aviation was still in its early days: cockpits were open, there was no pressurisation and no radio contact with the ground. Reg formed a team with Arctic explorer Captain (later Sir) George Hubert Wilkins as navigator, Val Rendle as co-pilot and Garnsey Potts as mechanic.
On 21 November 1919 the team left Hounslow, England in a Blackburn Kangaroo, headed to France on the first leg of their gruelling journey. Reg recalled: “It was bitterly cold all the time. On the first day out from England, we flew for about four hours in a snowstorm with no means of navigating, just a compass.” The crew conversed by sending notes to each other via a pulley and wire attached to the side of the plane. The inclement weather plagued them incessantly but it was engine failure that dashed their hopes of winning the race. On 8 December en route to Egypt they crash landed at Suda Bay in Crete. Unable to secure a new engine in time, the team had to abandon the race and Reg returned to Australia by sea. He arrived back in Orange in April 1920. On 7 May 1921 Reg married Mabel Lawson in the Methodist Church at Canobolas.
Reg’s name appears on Methodist Church Orange Honour Roll.