yeovil at War

Henry George Willis

Died from his wounds


Sadly, we know very little of the early life of Henry Willis and he appears in very few official records. I am certain that he never lived or worked in Yeovil and I strongly suspect that his late brother's wife, Ellen of 42 Park Street, had Henry's name added to the War Memorial in the Borough alongside his brother's name. Since his name is inscribed on Yeovil's War Memorial, I have created this page in his memory.

William John Willis was born in Puddletown, Dorset, in October 1888. He was the son of George and Sarah Willis. He had two older brothers, William and Charles, an older sister Violet and a younger sister Mabel.

From December 1906 Henry worked as a striker in the smith's shop at the foundry of Lott & Walne at Dorchester.

Henry became a professional soldier. He had served in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment but had also previously been rejected for military service because he was under height.

On 20 August 1907, at the age of 18 years 9 months, he enlisted at Dorchester, giving his trade as an engine driver. He joined the 4th Company, Corps of Royal Engineers as a Sapper, with the Service Number 16687. He initially enlisted for a period of three years with the Colours (later extended) and nine years with the Reserve.

From his Service Record we know that Henry was 5' 8" tall, weighed 130 lbs, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He gave his religion as Church of England.

Henry transferred to the 44th (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers, as a Sapper on 18 November 1909. On the same day he shipped out to Jamaica, to based in Kingston.

He became an Engine Driver on 24 March 1911. Transferring again on 30 December 1912 to 'M' Company as a Sapper. Henry remained in Jamaica for more than three years, until 16 January 1913, when he returned to England as a 'Fortress' Engine Driver at Pompey (which had a 1st rate of pay).

Henry trained as a Military Mechanic and was promoted to Staff Sergeant on 29 July 1913. He left for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 7 October 1914, serving with 3rd Signal Squadron, Royal Engineers.

On 8 September 1915 Henry was transferred to the Cadet School at St Omer, with a view to obtaining a commission in the infantry. He was discharged in the field on being gazetted to a temporary commission on 22 October 1915 to 2nd Lieutenant and joined the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry on 30 October 1915.

He was wounded in action on 19 December 1915 and hospitalised at No 7 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, France, where he died on 22 December 1915. He was aged 26 and was mentioned in Despatches.

Henry Willis was interred in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France - Grave II.A.12 - and his name is recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.


For Henry's older brother, William, of 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment - click here.




The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Henry Willis.