2nd Lieutenant Thomas Arthur Raymond Robert Ellicott Willey

2nd Lieutenant Thomas Arthur Raymond Robert Ellicott Willey Born. 1897. Killed In Action. 1st July 1916, Aged 19. Thomas Arthur Raymond Robert Ellicott Willey was the eldest son of Mr Arthur Willey, a well known Leeds Solicitor, Alderman of the City of Leeds and prominent member of the Leeds Pals raising committee. He was born in Leeds and educated at Roscoe’s College, Harrogate and Harrow. On leaving Harrow he and his younger brother became articled clerks (Trainee solicitors) in their father's firm. Living at North Hill Road, Headingley, Leeds, he enlisted as a private in the "Pals" September 1914 Age 17 and on December 4th 1914 was offered and accepted a commission as Temporary 2nd Lieutenant. He was, according to records, the best boxer of the battalion at his weight. He served with the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale, Egypt and France. On the 1st of July 1916, out of the whole Brigade, 2nd Lieutenant Tom Willey and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Norman Hutton (Commander of C Company, 10 Platoon) were to have the distinction of leading the first Waves "over the top". Willey’s childhood friend and fellow "Pals" Officer Lieutenant John Gilbert "Jackie" Vause, Commander of No 15 Platoon D Company was in the second wave. He was killed a few minutes after Zero hour. In a letter to his Father a week later Private W. Arthur Hollings wrote: "I wish you could make it in your way to go see Alderman willey and tell him I express the feelings of us all when I say that we are absolutely proud of him. He has always shown calm grit and courage in the firing line, and we had every confidence in him but never has he appeared so noble and courageous as he did at 7-30am last Saturday. (Nine minutes before, Willey had led his platoon out into" no mans land" laying down for cover to await zero hour.) "On that fateful morning of July 1st, We all stayed in the front line trench for several hours subjected to a very heavy bombardment. At about 7.15 Mr Willey passed down the order, ’Get ready 13,’ as casually as though on an ordinary parade. We then filed out , up the scaling ladder, through the gap in our own wire and to our place as the first wave (the post of honour ) in advance of our wire, Mr Willey said, ‘Ten paces interval boys’ and it was done just as though on manoeuvers." "At 7:30 am, Young Willey jumped up, and waving his revolver, shouted "Come on 13. Give Them Hell" It can be certain Willey’s death was instant, because Arthur Hollings also wrote: "Willey lost his legs when he was hit by a shell" That night a few unwounded survivors from No 10 platoon crawled out into no mans land trying to find 'young Willeys' body but to no avail. His remains were never found. He is commemorated on the Thiepville Memorial, France. The Yorkshire Evening Post Friday July 7 1916: Major Hartley, who at the time was in temporary command of the Battalion wrote to Alderman Willey saying: " It has been a terrible business for our poor battalion, I have asked several men about poor Tom , and they say he was magnificent !. He was the hero of the battalion, both with officers and men. From the bottom of my heart I grieve for you." 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Norman Hutton, wounded in the right shoulder 1/7/16, wrote a letter to Tom Willey’s family from Whitworth Hospital in Manchester, in it he said: Dear Mr Willey, I cannot express to you my very deep sorrow and regret at the news of Tom’s death. Everyone loved Tom, and, as you know, he was more often than not the very life and soul of our mess. He was a great officer and a great man and we shall miss him tremendously, he was always cheerful and full of life. I can’t realize what has happened. All the best have gone. I cannot see why I didn’t go with them. I hope both Mrs Willey and yourself will accept my most heartfelt sympathy in your great loss, and find consolation in the thought that Tom, like the boy he was, always did his duty. Yours Very sincerely, Arthur Hutton Alderman Willey With grateful thanks to Mr Glenn Miller and Beachcroft Wansbroughs (previously Willey Hargrave) for kindly providing photographs and information.

Website Feedback

You can leave a message using the contact form below.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.