Artwork Description / Detail
Desmond Ormonde Beale WILLIAMS
1917 – 1997
Desmond Williams was born Desmond Ormonde Beale on 3 November 1917. He served with the Long Range Desert Group during World War II and on his return from active service, was adopted by Arnold Beetham Williams (1870 – 1965) who had married Desmond’s widowed mother Emma Beale (1887 – 1959), hence the addition of Williams to his surname. After A.B. William’s death in 1965 Desmond O Williams took over the family’s Puketiti Station near Waipiro Bay on the East Coast.
Beale was educated at Hereworth School, Hastings and Christ College, Christchurch. He enlisted with the Wellington Regiment on the 7th February 1941 (army number 41586). On 7th April 1941 he embarked with the 2nd NZEF for Egypt arriving on 16 May 1941. Having served in the 22nd battalion, on 18th September 1942 he was transferred to ‘A’ squadron of the Long Range Desert Group where he became a member of ‘R’ patrol serving out of Cairo from the LRDG base at Kufra.
On 3 September 1943 he was awarded the African Star, promoted to Corporal and discharged back to his regiment. In 1944 he was transferred to the NZAC engineering department and whilst serving there was awarded the 8th Army Clasp. Having attended the ‘Staghound’ light armoured vehicle course held at the New Zealand Corps school, on 10th January 1944 he returned to ‘A’ squadron LRDG.
On 20 April 1944 he was posted to the 2nd NZEF NZAC Advance Base in Italy and having been injured in June 1944, returned to New Zealand on the Tongariro, disembarking on 21st April 1945. His Army History Sheet records that his name was changed to Williams on 1st August 1945 and that he was discharged on 23rd July 1945.
During service he was awarded the 1939 – 45 Star, Africa Star with 8th Army clasp; Italy Star; Defence Medal; and War Medal 1939 -45, none of which were uplifted.
Desmond Williams returned to Puketiti Station where he assisted his adoptive father, A.B. Williams, in the management of the station and in 1947 took over the management in his own right, although they still continued to work together. Puketiti Station has been associated with the Williams family since William Williams established the first missionary station in Poverty Bay in 1840, having been purchased by his son, James Williams in 1882.
A.B. Williams and Desmond became known for their soil conservation work at Puketiti station. They were at the forefront of the earliest conservation work in New Zealand with A.B. Williams pre-dating the State in recognition of the problems of river control and soil conservation and the need for regeneration of native bush.
Desmond Williams was a director of the companies that ran the Ihungia and Puketoro Stations and was one of the trustees of the Williams Memorial Trust. He spent most of his life at Waipiro Bay or Puketiti and was deeply involved with community projects and bodies, including being on the Waiapu Hospital Board for 21 years from 1971. He served on the Tairawhiti Area Health Board for two years, was one of the trustees responsible for the health clinics run by the Hikurangi Community Trust, served two years on the Catchment Board, was involved with the local fishing and golf clubs and bought land for an aerodrome at Ruatoria. Desmond was fluent in Maori and was greatly respected amongst the Maori community.
Desmond Williams did not marry. When he died in October 1997 he bequeathed Puketiti station in trust to one of his many godsons, Daniel John Russell, who continues to manage the station through the Puketiti Trust, which he formed in 2005.
Travelling with The Long Range Desert Group, as described by Peter McIntyre
The LRDG headquarters at Kufra Oasis were comfortable but the men spent most of the time ranging behind the enemy lines in almost waterless desert. Their usual ration on the move was a mug of tea in the morning and another in the evening with another mug of water for all washing purposes. They wore Arab head-dress and sandals, many grew beards. On the move they look like bands of ruffianly Arabs with Chevrolet trucks instead of camels. Their lives were in constant danger cruising behind enemy lines, destroying planes on airfields, gathering information and keeping a secret road watch on the movements of enemy vehicles, tanks and so on.
The biggest hazard was attack from the air. Caught in vast areas of open desert with no cover they were almost powerless and frequently had trucks blown to pieces while they could only flatten out on the ground and hope not to be hit.
When the LRDG was formed, the New Zealand division had been asked to provide two patrols for it. Units were probed for men of adventurous spirit and self-reliant nature and my old battery had provided several. Bluey Grimsey had become the expert navigator to ‘R’ troop. Another was young Sanders. He won one of the first decorations, an M.M., in the LRDG and went on to become Popski’s right hand man in the amazing outfit Popski’s Private Army, penetrating by Jeep far behind the enemy lines in Italy. Such were the men of the LRDG, the individualistic, the unorthodox. They were wonderful men to travel with.
When Rommel had cut off the northern approach the only way from Kufra to the Nile and Cairo was south around the cliffs to the Gilf Kebir, then east by way of Dakla and Karga oases. This fantastic journey became a regular route of the LRDG. It had never been done before. Explorers coming out from the Nile had got as far as the sand sea in 1921 and to the Gilf Kebir in the south, but none had reached Kufra other than from the north.
It was this journey from Kufra to the Nile that I made with ‘R’ troop, a New Zealand troop of the LRDG – a journey such as I have never made in my life before nor I have made since.Huddled in blankets with our Arab head-dress drawn across our faces, only the eyes showing, we were perched in our places on our trucks, each of which was mounted with machine gun or Bren. A villainous looking lot.
We drove into Cairo on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We had made the journey from Kufra oasis with only one breakdown – a quickly repaired faulty fuel pump – but at the first traffic signal the driver of the last truck, boggle-eyed at his old haunts, drove slam into the truck in front which in turn crashed into the one in front of it and so on. Two of them had to be towed into the depot. That night I walked into my old mess on the hill in Maadi camp. An old friend looked up and yawned.
“Hello” he said – been away?
Peter McIntyre – War Artist
Publ. AH & AW Reed, 1981