The Doncaster teenager who was executed trying to stop atomic bomb plans

Gerald Williams, of Stockill Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, died in a mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway during World War Two
Gerald Williams, of Stockill Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, died in a mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway during World War Two

In a corner of Norway, there is a gravestone carrying the name of a Doncaster teenager.

The stone carries the name of Sapper GS Williams, a Royal Engineer from Hyde Park, Doncaster, and the family message: "How we miss you smiling face - no other can take your place."

War hero Gerald Williams, front, with his family at Stockhill Road, Hyde Park Doncaster. Father, Humphrey. Mother, Olive, Elder Brother Jack. Sisters Helena Gwen and Flo.

War hero Gerald Williams, front, with his family at Stockhill Road, Hyde Park Doncaster. Father, Humphrey. Mother, Olive, Elder Brother Jack. Sisters Helena Gwen and Flo.

This year, the surviving family of Gerald Stanley Williams will remember him, 75 years after he was murdered by the Nazi SS after he was captured on his way to a dangerous mission to stop the German developing nuclear weapons.

Sapper Williams was aged only 18 when he died. He had joined up under age, and is even said to have memorised a test sequence after initially being turned down because of colour blindness.

He left the family home on Stockill Road, Hyde Park, and gave up a woodwork course he was taking at college in Doncaster to join up.

And in 1942 he volunteered to take part in an attempt at sabotaging the German occupied heavy water plant at the town Rjukan in Norway to prevent the Nazis from developing an atomic bomb. He was the youngsters member of the team.

The grave of Gerald Williams, of Stockill Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, who died in a mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway during World War Two

The grave of Gerald Williams, of Stockill Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, who died in a mission to destroy a heavy water plant in Norway during World War Two

Tragically, the raid was a failure.

Those who had flown out in gliders were all executed by the Germans, after Hitler had ordered all commandoes that were captured to be put to death.

Sapper Williams' nephew Christopher Dale was only a year old when his uncle died - but learned the story of how his uncle died through his mum. as he grew up.

He was thinking of his uncle on Saturday, November 18, which marks the 75th anniversary of the start of what was called Operation Freshman. The troops were supposed to have landed in an area cleared by the Norwegians, before making their way to their target.

The airborne troops flew off to Norway in Horsa gliders, towed by Halifax bombers. setting off from Skitten, in the north of Scotland. But the mission hit problems when the bomber pilots were unable to find the landing area due to bad weather. They turned round to head back to Scotland, but ice formed on the glider tow cables and on the gliders, causing them to crash.

Sapper Williams survived the glider crash. He and the rest of the surviving troops in his aircraft were captured by the Germans.

All were killed within 24 hours, killed by Nazis in executions.

Mr Dale said: "My mother used to tell us that they were ordered to dig their own graves and then shot as they stood by them. That turned out to be untrue. They were shot, and then their bodies were thrown onto the back to a truck, taken to a beach and buried in the sand. They are now re-buried, at the Eiganes war cemetery, at Stavanger.

"Gerald was the youngest on the raid.

"Mum mum hated the Germans for what had happened until the day she died. She didn't talk about it much, but she always remembered what had happened.

"The family would talk about him, as a nice lad with blond hair who wanted to do woodwork."

"It does upset me, what happened, because I never knew him. My uncle was marched up a road, an SS man with each of them. They were stopped, and the one in front taken round a corner shot in the back of the head.

"War is nasty and those who play games involving shooting on their video games consoles should be aware of that."

Although the raid failed, another raid, called Operation Gunnerside succeeded in destroying the heavy water plant that it was to have targeted. The subsequent raid was the subject of the film The Heroes of Telemark.

It was rebuilt, but then destroyed again in an air raid by heavy bombers.

But the deaths of Sapper Williams and his fellow soldiers have not been forgotten.

There was a commemorative service on November 19 at the spot in Slettebø, near Egersund, in Norward where Gerald and 13 others involved in Operation Freshman were executed on November 20 1942.

This is a local initiative and a local historian, Jostein Berglyd, who has written a book about Operation Freshman will be giving a talk as part of the commemoration.

Ion Drew, an Scottish born professor at the University of Stavanger, who has also written on the subject, said he planned to attend the commemoration.

"There is already a plaque nearby with the names of the 14 Royal Engineers who were executed there," he said.

"There were two gliders involved in the operation and they both crashed in different places at roughly the same time (about midnight on 19 November 1942). There was recently a memorial ceremony at the other crash site in a place called Fylgjesdalen, during which a plaque was unveiled for the first time with the names of those who died there."

Family connections

Gerald Williams family was well known in Doncaster - his brother in law ran a high profile town centre business.

Gerald had three sisters, Christopher Dale's mum Helena, Gwen, and Flo.

Helena married Chris' father Walter Dale who worked in the coal industry, with senior jobs at pits including Brodsworth, Markham Main and Harworth Collieries.

Gwen's husband, Eddie Raynes, ran the Raynes motorbike shop on Silver Street in Doncaster town centre.