July 18, 1913 - December 31, 1943
William Robert Widdess, born in Lindsay, Ontario, was the son of William Robert Sr (deceased, 1930, heart disease) and Eleanor (nee Corneil) Widdess, 72, of Peterborough, Ontario. His father was an insurance agent, district manager for Canada Life. He had two brothers. Milton Douglas Widdess was to be notified in case of casualty. His second brother, Stewart, lived in Los Angeles. They had one sister, Margaret, 39.
William Jr. was an accountant with the Bank of Montreal from 1931 - 1940. He liked golf, sailing, baseball, basketball, badminton, and bowling, occasionally. He indicated he smoked 10 cigarettes daily and had two pints a week of alcohol. He wanted to go into aviation advertising after the war.
He stood 5' 9", and had black hair and hazel eyes. He was considered to be wiry and was 14 pounds below his body build in August 1940.
William Jr. noted that he took care of his maternal aunt, Miss Lena Corneil, included in the $20/month he sent to his mother.
At Trenton, after he took his Flying Instructor's Course, between April 8, 1941 and May 30, 1941, he was assessed: "Fair knowledge of sequence should make capable instructor with experience. Below average on instrument flying."
In December 1940, at Central Flying School in Trenton, he was assessed as a "very efficient, conscientious instructor who organized his pupil's programs to their best advantage."
He was posted to 198 Squadron on September 24, 1943 after arriving in the UK on May 24, 1943.
On December 31, 1943, Widdess was escorting Hurricanes when midway over the English Channel, he collided in mid-air with another aircraft about 11 am. F/O Widdess was flying Typhoon JP 652 and F/O Johnson was flying JP 727. S/L J. Baldwin of 198 Squadron reported: "On Friday, 31 December 1943, the Squadron took off to escort RP Hurricanes to Noball Target No. 24. Rendez-vous was made a Lympn at 1025 hours and the Squadrons took position, one section on each side of the Hurricane Squadrons and one in the rear. The extremely slow speed of the Hurricanes necessitates violent weaving in order to keep position. We climbed to 8000 feet, the sun being very glaring when I noticed that F/O Johnson, who was flying as Red 2, had fallen out of position and was flying towards Blue Section, though still some way off. I was about to call him over the R/T to return when there was a violent disintegration of aircraft, wreckage flying all over the area. F/O Widdess who was flying as Blue 2 and F/O Johnson were not seen again, so it must be assumed they collided. The water was searched, but apart from burning wreckage, nothing was seen. Blue Section, which carried out the search fixed the position and returned to base. The rest of the Squadron escorted the Hurricanes to the Target without further incident." It was believed that Widdess lost sight of his leader in the sun and was seen to break formation. A few seconds later, F/O Widdess' aircraft was seen to explode in mid-air, having collided with F/O Johnson's aircraft.
Both Widdess and Johnson are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.