William Wynne Williams served in the Royal Navy from 1942 to 1946. At the beginning of the Second World War, “Billy Penbont” was unofficially, at 16 years of age, in charge of the Borth home guard group and went on many exercises with them. He was educated at Ardwyn Grammar School where he assisted with the training of the school’s army cadets. When he informed the headmaster that he would be joining up immediately he came of age, he was told that an application for a commission in the Royal Welch Fusiliers had already been forwarded. This was no surprise as the headmaster was also Colonel of the First Battalion Cardiganshire Home Guard. An argument ensued as Billy was adamant he wanted to join the navy. The well meaning headmaster thought he was doing his pupil a favour thinking that a man with potential could get a commission quickly in the army whereas the navy still looked to the public school system for its leaders. Another factor was that for all navy personnel fitness was paramount and only one in fifty got in to the service… after all there were no doctors, surgeons or dentists aboard the smaller ships.
However, Billy persevered and was summoned to appear before an Admiralty Selection Board in Bristol…but was not accepted. After volunteering and completing his basic training at H.M.S. Raleigh, Torpoint near Plymouth, he was recommended for a commission in the R.N.V.R. He took preliminary training at Portsmouth, which was followed by the required period of sea service in a Hunt class destroyer. After this he went to H.M.S. King Alfred at Hove for further suitability tests. Billy returned to Portsmouth to successfully complete a pilots course.
Billy returned to H.M.S. King Alfred, where the bulk of the course would be completed at Lancing College, Shoreham-by-Sea; which were premises commandeered by the Royal Navy for the duration of the war. A few days before the commissioning ceremony, he and others, were informed that a further period of sea time was required. This time he did a tour of duty on a minesweeper.
Exasperated he decided to forgo the frustrating business of gaining a commission and he became a navigator yeoman. He went on to serve on H.M.S. Stephenson a Hunt class destroyer, H.M.S. Onyx, a fleet minesweeper and then H.M.S. Hooke, a Captain class frigate, whose main role was to sink submarines. He was involved in convoy protection and became embroiled in the battle of the Atlantic. This vessel was part of a group of five plus an escort carrier, which chased down U-boats in a vast area between the Azores and Iceland.
During this time the refuelling station was at Belfast where they anchored off Bangor for a complete refuelling and replenishing of arms and stores. As he was navigators’ yeoman at the time he remembers seeing the sealed orders after one refuelling stop, which stated that their two predecessors had been lost…not a thing to fill one with confidence. It was a very dangerous theatre of operations and as Billy says “all thoughts of an official commission were out of the question as the war had moved on apace and I was fully involved in this and comfortable as far as my position went vis a vis a commission”. Toward the end of the war he was involved in the D. Day Landings, and then with the hostilities over, he spent a year in Australian waters before returning home and demobilizing.
Billy had always dreamed of becoming an architect, but after coming home there was a short period of indecision. His initial employment was with an international veterinary firm in Berkhamstead. He was also on the staff of the Animal Health Dept. of the University College of Wales. The remainder of his working life was to be in the veterinary investigation service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, which was also involved with the Ministry of Overseas Development. He has lectured at various leading institutes. Billy once went in his various duties to the Falkland Islands to advise the farmers there on sheep breeding. Nowadays in his retirement he often spends a few months a year at Borth. A kind intelligent person, he provides one of the last links with local events before and during World War Two. He, like so many others, will not divulge the worst aspects of his war time experiences.