John Charles Willis was born in the Sub-district of Chester Cathedral in 1917 (Cheshire West CAT/108/66), the son of Charles & Ada Mary Willis (nee Pollard) who had married in 1914 at St. Oswald’s Church, Backford. (St Oswald Cheshire West CE3/1/204).
I have no information regarding John Charles’s early or teenage years, except for his admittance to Hawarden Grammar School, so any help would be appreciated:-
Hawarden Grammar School Admissions Register E/GS/1/10
1321/2099 WILLIS, John Charles, Date of birth – 4th August 1917, Penyffordd, Chester, Father – Farmer, Penyffordd Cl., Date of entry – 19th September 1930, Date of leaving – 22nd July 1932 – Farming.
His two brothers, Joseph Henry and Frederick Robert, and a sister, Florence Mary, also went to Hawarden Grammar School. Here are their entries on the Admissions Register.
1183/1827 WILLIS, Jos. Henry, Date of birth – 29th November 1915 , Penyffordd, Nr.Chester, Father – Farmer, Penyffordd Cl., Date of entry – 20th April 1928, (In School Summer & Autumn 1931),Date of leaving – 18th December 1931 – Electrician Apprentice.
1304/2332 WILLIS, Florence Mary Date of birth 22nd February 1920, Nant Farm, Penyffordd, Farmer Date of entry – 13th September 1932. Penyffordd Cl., £3. Date of leaving – 28th July 1936 – Drawing Office.
36/26 WILLIS, Frederick Robert Date of birth 29th March 1931 Nant Farm, Penyffordd, Farmer Date of entry – 15th September 1942. Penyffordd Cl., Date of Leaving 26th July 1946 – Farm
The family are seen on the 1939 Register (Taken on the 29th September 1939), and it is this source that gives us dates of birth. Charles Willis was born on the 3rd January 1888 and was a Farmer (mixed), Ada Mary had been born on the 8th April 1888 and as most women, who did not have a job, were described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” Joseph Henry had been born on the 29th November 1915 was an Electrician and an R.R.P. Warden, John Charles birthday was the 4th August 1917 and was a Stockman assisting his father. There are 2 re4dacted or closed records, which I believe was Florence Mary and Frederick Robert. I believe there were Boarders living there as well, a Leonard Morris Lewis, born on the 24th December 1892 and was a School Master, also Dennis Jones, born the 12th August 1909 and a School Master.
So John Charles had not enlisted or been conscripted on that date, but as all men between the ages of 18 and 41 had to enlist, so he must have joined just after, but any information would be gratefully received.
He was to find himself in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 2 A.D.U.(Air Delivery Unit) and flying planes to deliver them.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – excerpt from the History Information:-
During the North African campaign, Tripoli was an important Axis base until taken by Montgomery’s forces on 23 January 1943. It then became a hospital centre, and the burials in the war cemetery were almost entirely from the hospitals, which included Nos 2, 48* and 133 General Hospitals from March 1943, and No 89 General Hospital from April 1944. Tripoli War Cemetery contains 1,369 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 133 of them unidentified. There are 19 non Commonwealth burials and 7 non world war service burials here.
Whether John Charles ever got to a hospital, I don’t know, but the nearest one in Trpioli in March 1944 was the *48 British General Hospital
Leeds 10/41 to 5/42 then overseas; Quassassin (Egypt) 7/42 to 8/42; Gebeit (Sudan) 8/42 to 1/43 then to Quassassin; Quassassin 1/43 to 2/43 then to Alexandria; Alexandria 2/43 to 3/43 and then on to Tripoli; Tripoli 3/43 to 6/44 then to Cancello; Cancello 6/44 to 7/44 then to Rome; Rome 7/44 to 8/45; Graz 8/45 to 9/46. – Taken from – http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/112.html
Locations of British General Hospitals during WW2 – Taken from documents held at The National Archives: WO222/1568
As John Charles was buried with no other RAF men who died on the same day, I wonder if he was wounded previously and succumbed later. Sadly I could not find out how he died or what Squadron he was attached to, except for 2 A.D.U. (R.A.F.) (V.R.).
I wrote to the WW2Talk Forum, who have been unbelievably helpful getting facts for me through all my WW2 research for Deeside and asked if they could shine any light on what 2 A.D.U*. meant, what job John Charles did in the R.A.F. and had this reply from dp_burke, who told me to click on http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?15895-440308-Unaccounted-Airmen-8-3-1944&styleid=3 – this is a list of unaccounted airmen and John Charles is listed on it. And Malcolm_RAF tells us that he was “probably killed whilst flying in Hurricane IV, LB647 of No 2 ADU, which flew into the ground near Tarhuna in Italy in bad weather.” However Malcolm added an addendum – “ I don’t believe that this is correct as John Charles was not buried in Italy, which he would have been had he been killed there, he was buried in Libya. The circumstances of his death were probably correct, but not the location.” Many thanks to him for this information.
Owen on the same forum told me to click on this website to read about the author’s father’s days with 2 A.D.U. https://jamesevansjenkins.wordpress.com/tag/no-2-a-d-u/ – This may shed some light on what John Charles did in the war and how brave he was flying singly to deliver planes in the midst of war. Many thanks to the WW2 talk forum once again.
http://www.rafcommands.com/database/serials/details.php?uniq=LB647 – Hurricane II LB647.
Casualities in the CWGC Register for Hurricane II LB647
RankSort by Rank Name, Number, Trade & DetailsSort by Last Name DateCurrently Sorted by Date UnitSort by Unit CountrySort by Country Cemetery/Memorial & Loc Ref
Sergeant John Charles WILLIS (1621067) Pilot Hurricane II LB647 Forum Post RAF 1944-03-08 2 ADU Libya Tripoli War CemeteryRef : 7. C. 26.
More information can be found on National Archives – https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7160407
1 Section Aircraft Delivery Unit (ADU), Middle East; became 2 Aircraft Delivery Unit in…
But it has to be ordered.
John Charles is remembered on the Hawarden Grammar School Roll of Honour which was dedicated at Hawarden Grammar School on the 3rd February 1951 with a Remembrance Service for the 47* former pupils who died in the 1939 – 1945 World War. As recorded in the Chester Chronicle Saturday 10th February 1951.
*Author’s note, there are 46 names on the Roll of Honour, clerical error by the newspaper.
He must have been loved and missed so much, hopefully John Charles’s family, mother, father, sister and brothers were able to attend and see his name on the Roll of Honour.
John Charles’s father Chaarles Willis died, I believe, in the June quarter of 1960, age 72 years and his mother Ada Willis died in the March quarter of 1968 age 79 years.
AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM