William was born on the 13th November 1920 at 21 Darwin Street Bermondsey, the fifth child of William John and Jessie Lyons-nee Sullivan . He was baptised at the Church of the English Martyrs, his godmother being Henrietta Molloy, a nun?.
The family lived in a working class area of south London where Bill attended the Paragon School in Searles Road.
On school days the children came home for lunch and at tea time bread and jam was typically the order of the day. Bath night was a weekly ritual when all the children were bathed in a tin bath on the scullery floor according to a pecking order.
Playing ballgames and skipping were favourite childhood pastimes but those carefree days were interrupted by an outbreak of Diphtheria in the locality. Red blankets were hung across doorways to indicate the presence of infection and special ambulances took away the victims, many of them infants.
All the children were given a household duty, Bill was the family shoe cleaner. Most parents could not afford shoes for their children who wore plimsolls instead, but not so the Lyons kids who all had properly fitting shoes from “Jackmans”, the local shop.
1932 The family moves to Kenton, where, in contrast to the crowded living conditions of inner London, their new life in rural Kenton, surrounded by fields, would have seemed idyllic. Bill and brother Len shared a room together and went to Priestmead School. Bill later transferred to a local secondary school where he did well, particularly in technical subjects. He grew up to become an independent character with a sense of adventure and who found a fascination with aviation, often visiting Croydon Aerodrome and RAF Hendon. His other pursuits included football, swimming, ice skating and watching speedway.
1934 The family worshipped at the Kenton Catholic Church. Bill's baptism certificate has a handwritten note of 13/3/1934 on it, certifying that it had been seen by the priest (Maurice T Beckett) at this church - presumably before Bill's confirmation. This was the same priest as officiated at the 1944 funeral of Bill's parents and sister Jesse.
1935 When Bill left school aged 14, his father asked daughter Hilda to enquire about employment for him at her place of work, a publishers called Crowther & Goodman, part of the Argus Press Group. They accepted him and later, in May 1936, he was “bound apprentice” as a printer’s compositor, where mastery of grammar and the ability to spell backwards for type-setting were essential skills.
1937 He met his future wife Eileen Howson at Crowther & Goodman, where she worked in the finishing department and where her father was also employed as a machine minder. Bill joined the firm’s football team and played regularly for them at Parsloes Park in Dagenham.
|Bill with sister Jessie at Kenton||
Bill with Eva and Dennis c 1941
Bill and Eileen c 1938
|Eileen, Jessie Lyons, with Frank & Joan Lyons standing, cerca 1941||Kenton (L to R) Bill & Eileen, Harry & Eva, Jessie & Audrey, Jessie Jnr & Jos||February 1943, bridesmaids Audrey Payne & Jessie Lyons|
1939 Following the outbreak of war Bill volunteered for the RAF without his father’s knowledge. This caused a huge row with William John who exclaimed “they’ve already got two of my boys – what chance does he stand up there” and because, at the time, Bill was under age for military training.
1940 Sent to RAF Uxbridge for aircrew training followed by periods at Blackpool, Sunderland, Thirsk, Cranwell and Thetford.
1941 Transferred to No 2 signals school, RAF Yatebury, where he qualified as a wireless operator.
1942 Posted to No 1 air gunnery school at RAF Pembrey where he became fully qualified as WOP/AG Grade 1 and selected for flying duties with Coastal Command based in Scotland at RAF Prestwick, Invergordon and Stranraer
1943 6/2/43 Bill married Eileen Howson at the church of St
Mary The Virgin, Kenton with sister Jessie and niece Audrey as bridesmaids, brother
Dennis Lyons being best man. The family held a reception at home for the couple who
then had a short honeymoon at Wickford because Bill was required to return for
duty just 4 days later. Throughout the war years Eileen continued to work and
lived at Manor Park with her cousin and aunt. At weekends she would visit her
in-laws, often staying with them at Kenton or Loudwater. She and sister-in-law
Jessie were good friends. On the m.c. his father William J Lyons is given as Salesman, hers, T H Howson deceased. Witnesses were D C Lyons & W G Howson, her uncle.On the 16th April Bill joined 413 squadron (Royal Canadian Air Force) a Coastal Command
unit equipped with the American built Catalina flying boat.
On the 24th March Bill was informed that he was to replace a member of another crew who had been taken ill and would be sent on overseas duty the next day. There was no time for family farewells and he would be leaving behind his own crew with whom he had trained. In a hastily composed letter to his mother he wrote “not to worry” and it “might be some time” before he was able to let her know his destination. He added, “here is one thing that will please you all though, I stand every chance of visiting Len during the journey - what a surprise he is going to get!” (a reference to his brother who was hospitalised in Cairo from wounds suffered during the battle of El – Alemain).
|Bill (wearing 2 hats) at Stranraer||
413 Squadron: motto - We watch the waves
Bill & Len, 2nd April 1943
K- King moored at Koggala May 1943
|9thGeneral Hospital Cairo||
Bill with –“shiny shoes”
Len was indeed surprised, and overjoyed when Bill walked into his hospital ward. They were able to see each other several more times before Bill had to leave Egypt on his onward journey. The above photograph (left) was taken at a studio to send home to their mother Jessie who had been so upset at the news of Len’s injuries.
After 86 hours flying, (having departed from Stranraer), with transit stops at Plymouth, Gibraltar, Cairo, Basra, Karachi and Bombay the crew of FP306 finally arrived in Ceylon (South East Asia Command) where 413 squadron were based at Koggala.
The Japanese navy was active in the Indian Ocean and had been sinking many merchant ships. RCAF were engaged in anti submarine patrols plus search and rescue missions.
|PBY Consolidated Catalina|
1943/4 By now Bill had flown more than 1000 hours of operational sorties, mostly in the Far East territories. Slow moving flying boats were routinely airborne for up to 14 hours and vulnerable to attack from enemy aircraft and shipping
Bill had survived his time abroad but tragically, whilst away, his parents and sister Jessie had been killed by enemy bombing. He received this devastating news by war office telegram.
1945 Following his return from overseas duty Bill was later encouraged to remain in the RAF in a peacetime role, but he preferred to return to civilian life and was discharged on the 15th January 1946. Other than to tell the occasional amusing tale about the monsoon weather in Ceylon he never spoke of his wartime experiences.
5 9 42 Temp Sergeant
5. 9 43 Flight Sergeant
5. 9 44 Warrant Officer
1946 A son, John Anthony, was born at St Mary’s Hospital Stratford; Eileen lived with Eva and Harry at Woodford Green for a short time before she returned to Kenton. Bill completed his training with Crowther & Goodman and on the 7th May he was “freed” from apprentice
John, 1946, had 2 children: Howard Lyons 1974 & Gavin Lyons 1977 .Gavin and wife Amy had Louie Lyons 2019 & James Lyons 2021 . These the only 2 male descendants of old Stephen Lyons 1827.