Full Name: Archibald Gordon WILLIS
Rank: Sergeant (Air Gunner)
Service: Royal Air Force
Vessel: 48 Squadron
Age at Death: 20
Date of Death: 31 July 1940
Service Number: 568341
Cemetery: Carew (St Marys) New Churchyard, Pembrokeshire, Wales Reference: Row C, Grave 3
Born in the Kent village of Barham in 1920, Archie was the only son of Archibald Frank Willis and Nellie Flack. His father served in the Great War as a Corporal of Horse in the 1st Life Guards, seeing action in the First and Second Battles of Ypres, and the Battles of Loos and Arras. It was on his return to England after the war that Archibald married Nellie in 1919.
Nothing is known about Archie Jnr’s life before enlisting but we know that at the time of his death he was a Sergeant – an Air Gunner – in 48 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, stationed at RAF Carew Cheriton.
Archie died on 31st. July when his Anson No. K-8829 crashed during take-off. The plane – an aircraft on charge to 48 Squadron but assigned to the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service – was taking off at 0430hrs to carry out a morning patrol for enemy aircraft over the Irish Sea.
As it made its take off run the Anson hit a dispersed Battle aircraft, N2050, and burst into flames. Archie Willis and his Flight Sergeant S P Tomley were killed; three Dutch crew members, Sergeant A J Daniels, Lieutenant Commander Kolff and Corporal J van der Schaaf, were injured.
Archie Willis was buried on a Saturday with full military honours. The funeral took place at the cemetery in Carew, only a few miles from the station where he was based. The funeral service was attended by Archie’s parents, who, after their sons death, named their new home ‘Cherianson’.
Almost exactly 50 years later, during the weekend of the Third Flying-Boat Reunion at Pembroke Dock, Dutch veteran Johannes van der Schaaf returned to Carew Cheriton and the village cemetery where he paid his respects to Archibald Willis, his young crew colleague from Anson K8829.
The residents of Barham – Archie’s home village – erected a water pump in the village churchyard in his memory