August 5, 1908 - December 15, 1944
William Laurel Wilson was the son of Cora Helena (nee McMahon) Wilson (1881-1947) and William B. Wilson (1875-1965), farmer, of Petrolia, Ontario. He had three brothers, including John Lendrum Wilson (1905-1989), Maxwell Clair Wilson (1917-1986), with the RCAF, and Robert Edwin (1918-1942), who was a Flight Sergeant (Observer) with the RCAF.
William had a variety of jobs: office work in 1927, reporter for the Chatham Daily News in 1928, salesman at two different companies, a hockey player at Madison Square Garden from 1929-1932, before joining Thayer’s Ltd. in 1932 as district manager. He liked all sports, but noted badminton, golf, hockey and sailing.
William married Marion Christine Thain on September 11, 1937 at Mount Dennis, Ontario. She resided in Chatham, Ontario, then Toronto. They had no children.
His brother, Robert, with 408 Squadron died on April 22, 1942. His name is on Runnymede Memorial -- commemorated there as he had no known grave.
William’s journey through the BCATP began at No. 5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec on July 10, 1942. He was then sent to No. 9 SFTS, Centralia July 24, 1942. In August 1942, William took an administrative course in Trenton, Ontario, where he learned about office organization, RCAF organization, equipment, discipline and morale, plus other miscellaneous topics. He was 15th out of 65 with 81%. “Thayers Limited 1932-1942 district manager and supervisor of wholesale and retail gasoline and oil business. Public School: 1915-1922. High School 1922-1927. Junior matriculation and partial senior matriculation. General remarks: A capable, hard working officer who displays initiative. Made very good progress throughout the course. Good knowledge of drill.”
From there, he went to Toronto for a short period of time, then was taken on strength with No. 5 ITS, Belleville October 5, 1942 until September 18, 1943. He was taken on strength with 164 Squadron, Moncton, September 19, 1943 until March 13, 1944. He traveled between Moncton and Dorval, Quebec.
He was ill in December 1942 and at the station hospital December 26-29, 1943.
On March 14, 1944, he was attached to 168 Squadron, Rockcliffe and on temporary duty in the United Kingdom April 9, 1944.
On December 15, 1944, aboard Fortress 9203, crew and passengers were on a transatlantic flight from French Morocco to Canada via the Azores. The plane went missing. A few mailbags were spotted floating on the surface during the search.
CREW: • F/L Horace Brougham ‘Pat’ Hillcoat, Pilot, Ottawa, Ontario • F/L Frederick Blair La Brish, Navigator, Regina, Saskatchewan • F/L Alfred John De Laune Ruttledge, Co-pilot, Simcoe, Ontario • F/O Cecil Alexander Dickson, WO, Edmonton, Alberta • Cpl. Robert Emerson Bruce, crewman, Victoria, BC PASSENGERS: • F/L William Stewart Pullar, passenger-Pilot, Delia, Alberta • F/L Douglas Haig Sharpe, passenger-Navigator, Montreal, Quebec, • F/L William Laurel Wilson, administrative officer, Chatham, Ontario
(See Dave O’Malley’s article. for additional information and photos.)
July 9, 1945: “The situation is that the RAF look upon this as an operational flight, concerning which they usually take no action beyond a circumstantial report. No. 9 Group can produce witnesses’ statement showing that the personnel concerned were actually in the aircraft when it left Rabat, that no other call was made enroute and that nothing further is known of the aircraft since its disappearance.”
Both Sharpe brothers' names are on the Petrolia Cenotaph. Please see link below.
In January 1956, Marion, known as Mrs. Marion Russell, received a letter informing her that since William had no known grave, his name would appear on the Ottawa Memorial.