WW1 Corporal William Brian de Laval Willis 12/289

Corporal William Brian de Laval Willis [1]

William Brian de Laval Willis was born in Cambridge, New Zealand on 17 May 1888, to Archdeacon William Newcombe de Laval Willis, of Cambridge, Waikato, and his wife Mary Agnes (Clarke), who had arrived in New Zealand from Ireland, via England in 1866.

William Brian de Laval Willis attended Kings College and from 1904 – 1905, St John’s College and was a member of the College Rifles Rugby Football Club for two years. [1, 2, 3] His address and contact on enlistment was J.B. Lusk, Church Road, Epsom, Auckland as, by that time his family had moved to Cambridge, where his father, had established a parish and became Vicar of St Andrew’s Church, Cambridge and later, Archdeacon of the Waikato. When Archdeacon Willis died in 1916, the parishioners at Tamahere, Cambridge funded and dedicated stained-glass windows and a memorial font at St Andrew’s Church to him and his wife. [4] The family lived at 31 Queen Street, Cambridge and named the house ‘Kilpeacon’ after the Archdeacon’s father’s parish in Ireland. There were three sons; William Brian de Laval was the eldest, followed by Alan Newcombe, and Frank and two daughters. (Alan Newcombe de Laval Willis (Service number 54674), (1890 – 1965) also enlisted in the Army in February 1917 but was injured and discharged on medical grounds in June 1919).

William Brian de Laval Willis [2]

On 1 February 1906, William Brian de Laval Willis, was studying at Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland) and joined the New Zealand Lands and Survey Department (now Land Information New Zealand, LINZ) as a draughting cadet. [8] The Department of Lands and Survey at that time was one of many agencies involved with surveying New Zealand, each agency maintaining its own records, including the New Zealand Company, Geological Survey Department, Native Land Purchase Department, and the Public Works Department. Two years later he was transferred to the field under District Surveyor R. S. Galbraith, and three years later joined the staff of Mr J. Langmuir, Inspector of Surveys carrying out surveys in the Auckland District to obtain the necessary experience to sit and pass the Federated Surveyor’ Boards of Australia and New Zealand examination in March 1912. Like many other officers of the Department, he volunteered for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He enlisted 8 November 1914 in Auckland and was 5ft 9inches, of fair complexion, with brown eyes and brown hair. He sailed on 16 October 1914 from Wellington on the Vessel ‘Waimana’ as a Corporal, in the Main Body of the Auckland Infantry Battalion arriving in Suez, Egypt on 3 December 1914 He was transferred to the Dardanelles to fight at Gallipoli and there received a bullet wound to the chest. He was admitted to Deaconess Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt on 10 May 1915, and sadly died on 12 May 1915.

Willis — NZ Wargraves [3]

Private Arthur Hanson, (Service number 12/123) wrote a letter to William Brian de Laval Willis’s parents recounting the events that led to their son’s fatal wounding [6, 7] In the Annual Report 1915 for the Department of Lands and Survey, he is noted as: ‘unassuming, hardworking and conscientious in the performance of his duties, a young officer of much promise and his death is a loss not only to the Public Service, but to the Dominion’ [8] He is buried in Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt, A. 138

William Brian de Laval Willis is remembered in the:

• Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 1 Hall of Memories

• Roll of Honour, College Rifles, Rugby Union Football & Sports Club, 33 Haast Street, Remuera, Auckland

• Hautapu RSA Memorial 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, Leamington, Cambridge

• Cambridge Cenotaph, Victoria St, Cambridge 3434

• Cambridge World War One War Memorials