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Sir Algernon Willis
Born 1889
Died 1976 (aged 86–87)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1904 - 1950
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic
3rd Battle Squadron
Force H
Commander-in-Chief Levant
Mediterranean Fleet
Portsmouth Command
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Algernon Usborne Willis KCB DSO (1889–1976) was a British Royal Navy officer.

Naval career[]

Willis joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1904[1] and went on to serve in World War I and then actions against the Bolsheviks in the Baltic from 1918 to 1919.[1]

In the Second World War he was appointed as Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, first under Sir Dudley Pound and then in 1940.[1][2] under Sir Andrew Cunningham, He participated in various Fleet operations in the Mediterranean, including the Battle of Calabria in July 1940,[2] and the attack on Italian Fleet at Taranto in October 1940.[2]

In 1941 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic[1] with acting rank of Vice-Admiral and was responsible for convoys passing through to the Middle East and for operations against enemy vessels. Then in February 1942 he transferred to HMS Resolution as Vice-Admiral commanding 3rd Battle Squadron and Second in command Eastern Fleet under Admiral Sir James Somerville.[1] This Fleet was assigned the duty of protecting communications in the Indian Ocean.

In March 1943 he was Flag Officer commanding Force H,[1] the force which covered North African Operations and then the invasion of Italy. In October 1943 he became Commander-in-Chief, Levant after the Armistice with Italy when Force H dispersed.[1] As Commander-in-Chief Levant he conducted the Dodecanese Campaign of Autumn 1943 and attended the Cairo Conference.

He returned to the UK in 1944 and became Second Sea Lord[1] on the Board of Admiralty and held this appointment until February 1946 when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet.[1] He went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth in 1948.[1] He retired in 1950.[1] It was widely believed he was not made First Sea Lord because his wife was Prime Minister Clement Attlee's sister-in-law and Attlee felt such an appointment could look like nepotism.

He spent his last years in Petersfield in Hampshire.

Family[]

According to Burke's Landed Gentry 1952, under the entry 'Willis of Monk's Barn', Willis was a descendant of Christopher Willis or Willes, b. c. 1527, the nephew of William Willes, Dean of Middleham, Yorkshire. His parents were Herbert Bourdillon Willis and his wife Edith Florence, the daughter of John Alldin Moore, of Hampstead, barrister-at-law.

He married, on September 7, 1916, Olive Christine,[3] the daughter of Henry Edward Millar, of Heathdown, Hampstead. They had two daughters.

Papers and Publications[]

After his death in 1976, 13 boxes of archived papers were presented to the Churchill Archives Centre in the University of Cambridge.[4] Additional documents are held by the National Archives.[5]

Reports in the London Gazette:

  • Despatches on actions against German and Japanese raiding ships 1941 Jan.-1943 Apr., by Vice-Admiral A. U. Willis, Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic Station and Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Fleet[6]
  • Despatch on operations in the Aegean 1943 Sept.7-Nov. 28, by Vice-Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis, Commander-in-Chief, Levant[7]

References[]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Raikes
Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic Station
1941–1942
Succeeded by
Sir Campbell Tait
Preceded by
Sir John Cunningham
Commander-in-Chief, Levant
October 1943–December 1943
Succeeded by
Sir Bernard Rawlings
Preceded by
Sir William Whitworth
Second Sea Lord
1944–1946
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Power
Preceded by
Sir John Cunningham
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet
1946–1948
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Power
Preceded by
Lord Fraser of North Cape
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
1948–1950
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Power

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