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aldlb57

Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Willison, DSO, MC - 2bn Sherwood Foresters 1918

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aldlb57
Posted (edited)

I'm a teacher at the high school "Institution Notre Dame des Anges" in the town of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux in Northern France and doing research concerning the liberation of the town on October 21 1918 by the British 8 Division.

The first British soldier to enter the town was Lieutenant Arthur Cecil Willison, DSO, MC, the intelligence officer of 25th Infantry Brigade.

Willison continued a military career until after World War II.

 

Concerning the 1914-1921 period, the following information was found:

Empld. as Brig. Intell. Off. 24 Inf. Brig. from 4.8.18. France and Belgium 22/3/15 to 11/11/18.

Wounded twice.

Despatches L.G. 21/12/17 and 9/7/19. 1914-15 S.

B.W.M. V.M. D.S.O. M.C. and Bar. (L.G. 24/2/42. - Bar to DSO)

 

His career followed the following path:

Extract from the 'Gradation List of Officers of the British Army' (p148):

WILLISON, Arthur Cecil, DSO, MC, p.s.c#. Born 2/1/96.

(Mobd. Spec. Res. To 2/7/15 - 332 dys). (from Spec. Res.)

Sherwood Foresters

2-Lt. 4/5/15 (3/7/15).

Lt. 6/7/16 17/10/16

actg. Capt. 6/7/16 to 1/2/17

Royal tank Corps

Capt. 1/1/23

Capt. 1/1/23 (5/1/24)

R.T.R. Maj. 5/5/35 

actg. Lt.-Col. 30/5/40 to 29/8/40

temp. Lt.Col. 30/8/40 to 20/1/41

Lt.-Col. 21/1/41. (Supernumerary 21/1/44).

actg. Col. 15/9/41 to 14/3/42

temp. Col. 15/3/42 to 22/4/43

actg. Brig. 15/9/41 to 14/3/42

temp. Brig. 15/3/42 to 22/4/43

 

Functions 

Educn. Officer (temp. Capt.) 20/2/19 to 22/8/19

Garr. Adjt. Blackdown 3/2/21 to ----,

G.S.O.3 India 1/2/35 to 30/9/37

D.A.A.G. India 1/10/37 to 3/1/39

G.S.O.1 Mid. East 15/9/41 to 1/6/42

 

Military Record:

Arthur Cecil Willison was in the 1st and 2nd Battalions (Regular) of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment), 1915 to 1923/4.

He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and Clasp (bar) to the MC, and this was followed by Distinguished Service Order (DSO), 1916 to 1918.

He joined the Royal Tank Corps in 1923/4 and was still serving in 1939, by which time it was known as the Royal Tank Regiment (and he was a Major).

By 1941 he was a Brigadier and arrived in Tobruk, North Africa - which was encircled by Rommel's Forces - on 18th September 1941, where he commanded the 32nd Army Tank Brigade (part of the British 70th Division).

He wasknown as 'Ant' by the tank fraternity, presumably because of his appetite for work! T

he Brigadier had field command of the break-out from Tobruk on 21st November 1941 and, by 26th November 1941, the TobForce had crossed the desert to the Ed Duda ridge.

He was awarded a Bar to his DSO and, later in the War (c. 1943), was a prisoner-of-war in Italy.

He retired on 25th July 1947 and lived at Trentishoe Manor in North Devon, and it was there that he died in a fire on 11th March 1966 (the Inquest and Death Certificate Date). he post-mortem date of death is given as 10th March 1966.

 

Brigadier Willison's only son was  Lt Gen Sir David John Willison (1919-2009), Royal Engineers who became an intelligence expert.

His grandson is Robin David Willison (1949- ), who became head of the LG family Willison of Trentishoe Manor (1952 edn) after his father's death. 

 

The objective of my research is to gather more extensive information about Brigadier Willison and identify and locate family members that will be invited to come to France in order to assist in the ceremonies next year on 21st October 2018. 

 

I'd be most interested in obtaining photographs of Brigadier Willison, especially when he was a lieutenant of the Sherwood Foresters. 

 

Thanking you beforehand,

With kindest regards,

 

André-louis de la Bruyère

Dutch teacher

Institution Notre Dame des Anges

4 Rue du Bruille

59230 Saint-Amand-les-Eaux

France

aldelabruyere@free.fr

+33783769997

Willison_Arthur_Cecil.jpg

Edited by aldlb57
reediting of texte to make contents shorter

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clk

Hi André-louis,

 

4 hours ago, aldlb57 said:

The objective of my research is to...identify and locate family members that will be invited to come to France in order to assist in the ceremonies next year on 21st October 2018. 

 

If you have access to Ancestry.co.uk there are 3 "public" family trees that have Arthur in them. It seems that the "owner" of each tree is aware of living relatives, so it might be worth messaging them via the website. If you don't currently have access, you could take out a 14 day free trial - see here. Cancel the membership before the end of the trial period to avoid any actual cost. 

 

As an alternative, I'd be happy to contact them on your behalf, and forward your contact details.

 

Regards

Chris

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aldlb57

Dear Chris,

Good suggestion. I just sent a request to all three.

Will come back here with the results.

The WWII picture shows a briefing for the Tobruk breakout.

I wonder if Willotson is on it. Do you have any idea?
With kindest regards,

Andre

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aldlb57

Dear Chris,

I found this photograph on a forum.

The description says:

LtCol Sydney Hartnell of New Zealand's 19th Battalion shakes hands with Bigadier Arthur Wilson, 32nd Armored Brigade at El Duda

I wonder whether there's not a mistake in the writing of the name and that we're looking at Brigadier Arthur Willison.

There is some resemblance with the first picture I posted.

With kindest regards,

Andre

 

hartnell.jpg

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aldlb57

I think this is another one with Willison in the middle.

4d9cd1b572e0fdf332321f9a548bdcc6.jpg

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clk
Posted (edited)

Hi André,

 

His DSO citation is on page 230 of part 1 of this free download. It shows that he was awarded the medal for his actions in October 1918 whilst attached to 24th Infantry Brigade HQ. On Ancestry, the brigade war diary for October 1918 starts here.

 

His MC index card is on page 304 of this free download. The citation for his original award is on page 87 of this free download. It shows that he was awarded the medal for his actions on 14th March 1917 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters. On Ancestry the battalion war diary for March 1917 starts here. The "bar" to his Military Cross seems to have been a 1918 King's New Years Honours award, for which there will not be a specific citation.

 

The Ministry of Defence should have a copy of what remains of his service record. There may not be a lot left relating to WW1. Extracted from an index of files that they hold:

 

Willison.jpg.680c0ce870dbd351c9ec753ed982f30a.jpg

 

If you did decide to get a copy of it, there is advice here. There is a helpdesk telephone number at the top of this webpage.

 

It might be worth posting any WW2 query on WW2Talk

 

Good luck.

 

Regards

Chris

Edited by clk

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Terry_Reeves
Posted (edited)

It might be worth sending an email to the museum at Nottingham Castle who appear to hold records for the Sherwood Foresters insofar as a photograph is concerned.

 

http://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk/wfr

 

TR

 

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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aldlb57

Dear Chris,

Thank you very much for these leads! You really know how to find the right archives, making me win a lot of time. 

DSO

Unfortunately, the DSO archives are of appalling quality and simply eye ruining; it's time to change the scanner at Kew I guess.

However, I do not seem to be able to locate Willison on any of these pages:

WO-389-8.1: 217 pages

WO-389-8.2: 277 pages but no Willison on page 230

WO-389-8.3: 128 pages

 

War diary 8th Div

I was very pleased to download this war diary as I've already tried to locate it to no avail a couple of days ago.

Amazing that these diaries were mostly handwritten with a pencil. It seems typewriters were scarce in those days. 

 

MC index card

See attached document. I found the mentions in dispatches that motivated these decorations in the London Gazette using the dates on the index card.

 

With kindest regards,

Andre

 

 

Willison MC card.PNG

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aldlb57

Dear Terry,

Contrary to other regimental museums, the Sherwood Foresters museum provided a photograph of a simple soldier that was part of a historic research. One of the members of this forum contacted them and received the photograph.

I managed to get a telephone number of the museum so I'll give them a call next week.
Since Willison switched to the Tank Regiment before WWII, I'll call the tank museum, hoping that they're willing to cooperate.

With kindest regards,
Andre

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clk
Posted (edited)

Hi André,

 

There is a notice in the London Gazette which says that Arthur transferred from the 3rd Battalion Hampshire Regiment to the Sherwood Foresters with effect from 3rd July 1915.

 

Transfer.pdf

 

The 3rd Battalion was a reserve battalion, and did not leave the UK. However, the medal roll you posted indicates that he arrived in France on 20th March 1915. It would seem then that he served 3 months "attached" to another unit  before being transferred to the Sherwood Foresters.

 

His MC citation in the registers is a poor quality scan:

 

5946d17b6509b_MCRegister.jpg.86d70e3d25068d064228b6a2d59aed81.jpg

 

However, compared to the version that was actually published in the London Gazette, the Battalion is shown, and hasn't been censored out, and it is hand annotated showing a place/date.

 

MC Published Version.pdf

 

I was incorrect in previously saying that his "bar" was a King's Birthday Honours award, and have amend the post. It was a New Years Honours award - again with no specific citation.

 

MC Bar.pdf

 

A clearer version of his DSO citation is:

 

DSO.jpg.75cbdc9a3e1665ef701ec90723ab02ed.jpg

 

In terms of "mentioned in despatches" you won't find anything specific about what warranted it. There is some information here. In broad terms the commander in chief wrote periodic summary reports of operations which were published in the London Gazette, appended to which there was a list of men that had been brought to their attention. You could search the London Gazette from here, or via Findmypast here, or browse on Ancestry from here, but it won't tell you much - if anything.

 

Regards

Chris 

 

 

Edited by clk

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aldlb57

Dear Chris,

 

Concerning Willison's MC citation, it is a pity that neither the area where his actions took place nor their date are mentioned, contrary to the DSO citation. Have you any idea where such information can be found? In the units' war diary I guess.

 

How can you see that the bar to the MC was a New Year's honors award?

 

Concerning his stay with the Hampshire Regiment, I found a London Gazette dated 2nd June 1914 that mentions his commissioning.

 

With kindest regards,
Andre

Willison Commissioned London gazette 2 6 1914.pdf

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clk
Posted (edited)

Hi Andre,

 

10 hours ago, aldlb57 said:

Concerning Willison's MC citation, it is a pity that neither the area where his actions took place nor their date are mentioned, contrary to the DSO citation. Have you any idea where such information can be found? 

 

From the 1st image in my last post, it shows that he was awarded it for his actions on 14th March 1917 at/near Bouchavesnes [something - Area?], whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters. On Ancestry, the Battalion war diary for March 1917 starts here, 24 Infantry Brigade HQ here, and 8 Division HQ (General Staff) here. The diaries contain some full and partial map references, and the Division HQ diary has some maps in it. If you need any help in reading trench map co-ordinates, there is some good advice here.

 

If you locate an appropriate trench map on this website, you can use the transparency slider to see how the map fits into the modern landscape.

 

As well as Ancestry, war diaries are also available from the National Archives for a small fee. The advantage the National Archives has is the download comes as a continuous pdf file, whereas you have to download a page at a time on Ancestry. From the National Archives for March 1917, the Battalion diary is here, the Brigade here, and the Division HQ (General Staff) here.

 

Regards

Chris

 

 

 

 

Edited by clk

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clk
10 hours ago, aldlb57 said:

How can you see that the bar to the MC was a New Year's honors award?

 

In the MC Registers (on page 71 of this free download) his name is shown on a page which is headed "Honours Gazette" with the date of 1st January 1918.

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aldlb57

Dear Chris,

 

Thank you for your tremendous help! I am impressed. You must be incredibly experienced in exploiting these archives.

 

In preparation of next year's centennial celebration of the Armistice, I am trying to identify and locate several descendants of British soldiers that participated in the liberation of our town on 21st October 1918.

7 British soldiers left their names in the attick of our school building when they were hospitalised as walking wounded by 24 (1st wessex) Field Ambulance. All 7 survived the war. During the 2017 celebrations, a monument will be unveiled, honouring the heroic work of 24FA that saved about 2000 French refugees for which the unit received the French Croix de Guerre on 31st January 1919 (being the only RAMC unit, recipient of this medal).

It is the wish of the town, the school and 243 Wessex Field Hospital (unit that continues 24FA traditions and that will be present next year with about 100 soldiers) to invite these descendants to assist in the centennial celebrations. 

 

My questions:

1. Do you know whether patient records of WWI RAMC units were preserved and if yes, where could these be found? I heard rumors that such archives were destroyed during the Blitz but I received no official confirmation of this.

2. Do you know whether the Imperial War Museum archives, which must be impressive, could be consulted?

3. I identified several descendants of the 7 British soldiers (name, date and place of birth) but I'm having trouble finding them. Would you know of ways to locate these people?

 

thanking you beforehand for your help.

With kindest regards,
Andre

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clk

Hi Andre,

 

In reply...

 

  1. There is advice on surviving medical records here. Unfortunately, the website creator sadly died a few months ago. The MH 106 records referred to are at the National Archives here. Unfortunately they aren't available to download. However, Forces War Records has started to transcribe some of them - but the project hasn't been completed yet. Their search page is here. The Wellcome Library search page is here
  2. Sorry, I don't know the extent or scope of any relevant records held by the Imperial War Museum, or how accessible they would be.
  3. I've never had the need to do that, so can't really offer any advice.

 

Good luck.

 

Regards

Chris

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