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Churchill contains:
<-- See earlier
WILN The Papers of Sir Denys Wilkinson
WIMB "Scottish Soldier": the autobiography of Major-General Douglas Wimberley
WLAW The Papers of Viscount Whitelaw of Penrith
WLFF The Papers of Michael Wolff
WLIS The Papers of Sir Barnes Neville Wallis
WLLS Papers of Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis
WLMN The Papers of Group Captain Hugh Williamson
WLMT The Papers of Peter and Phyllis Willmott
WLSN The Papers of William Lawrence Wilson
WLTN The Papers of E T S Walton
WMYS The Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Wester Wemyss
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Papers of Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis

Title Papers of Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis
Reference GBR/0014/WLLS
Creator Willis, Sir Algernon Usborne, 1889-1976, Knight, admiral
Covering Dates 1905–1976
Extent and Medium 13 archive boxes
Repository Churchill Archives Centre
Content and context

Willis was born in Hampstead, London, in 1889. He joined HMS Britannia as a naval cadet in 1904; subsequently serving on HMS Hindustan, Glory, Sprightly, Donegal, Good Hope and Vernon. He served during World War One on HMS Magnificent, Donegal, Fearless, Vernon, Saumarez and Wallace. Between 1918-19 he served in the Baltic in operations against the Bolsheviks. In 1920 he served on HMS Renown during the cruise of HRH the Prince of Wales to West Indies, Australia and New Zealand.

Between the wars he was promoted to Commander in 1921 and Captain in 1929 and served (successively) on HMS Vernon; at the Naval College, Greenwich; on HMS Coventry; the Tactical School at Portsmouth; on HMS Warwick; the Naval War College, Greenwich; on HMS Kent; on HMS Nelson; on HMS Vernon, the Torpedo School Portsmouth; and on HMS Barham.

In the period February 1939-April 1941 he was Chief of Staff to Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean (Admiral Sir Dudley Pound who was succeeded by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham in June 1939). In 1940-1 he took part in various Fleet operations in the Mediterranean, including the Battle of Calabria in July 1940, and the attack on Italian Fleet at Taranto in October 1940.

In August 1941 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic with acting rank of Vice-Admiral and responsible for convoys passing through this area to Middle East and for operations against enemy submarines and ocean raiders. 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, Commander-in-Chief. This Fleet was formed after the loss of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse during the fall of Singapore and was assigned the task of protecting British territory and sea communications in the Indian Ocean.

In March 1943 he hoisted Flag in HMS Nelson as Flag Officer commanding Force "H", the force of Battleships, Aircraft Carriers and Destroyers which covered North African Operations and afterwards the invasion of Sicily and Italy (Salerno). In October 1943 he became Commander-in-Chief Levant after the Armistice with Italy (which was signed aboard his Flagship HMS Nelson at Malta) when Force "H" dispersed. As Commander-in-Chief Levant he conducted the Dodecanese operations of Autumn 1943 and attended the Cairo Conference of that year. He returned to the UK in 1944 and became Second Sea Lord (Chief of Naval Personnel) on the Board of Admiralty and held the appointment till February 1946. He was Appointed Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean in 1946 and Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth in 1948.

He was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1940; Vice Admiral in 1943; Admiral in 1945 and Admiral of the Fleet in 1949. He was created CB in 1940, KBE in 1945 and GCB in 1946. He died in April 1976.

Includes material relating to Willis' naval career, including material relating to World War Two

The papers were presented to Churchill Archives Centre in 1976 shortly after the death of Willis by Stephen Roskill (his literary executor)

The papers are owned by Churchill College, Cambridge.

Access and Use

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holder and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, Papers of Admiral Sir Algernon U. Willis, WLLS

Further information

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, the National Register of Archives, London and on the Janus website, http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/.

This collection (fonds) level and catalogue was prepared by Andrew Riley of Churchill Archives Centre in June 2004, using information from the existing catalogue of the collection.

Index Terms
Naval Personnel
New Zealand
Second World War (1939-1945)
Willis, Sir Algernon Usborne (1889-1976) Knight, admiral
Edward VIII (1894-1972) King of Great Britain and Ireland, afterwards Duke of Windsor
Churchill/WLLS contains:
1/1 Certificates, photographs and press cuttings covering Willis' entry into navy and training in HMS Britannia, HMS Isis and HMS Highflier, 1905-6.
1 volume.
2/1 Midshipman's Log Books covering service in "HMS Hindustan" 1905-7, "HMS Hampshire" 1907 and "HMS Glory" for a Mediterranean cruise 1907-8. Includes a photograph of the officers of HMS Good Hope 1912 and one of the surrender of the German Fleet, November 1918.
1 box containing 2 volumes & 1 envelope.
3/1 Diary of Baltic operations in HMS Wallace against Bolsheviks, 1918-19.
1 folder.
3/2 Diary of cruise in "HMS Renown" with HRH The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on board to Australia, New Zealand and Pacific and Atlantic colonies, 1920.
4/1 Track chart of movements of "HMS Warwick", Willis' first command November 1927 to July 1929 and photograph of her officers.
1 folder.
4/2 Photographs of Senior Officers' Courses at Naval College, Greenwich, 1929-32.
1 folder.
4/3 Photographs and correspondence while in command of "HMS Kent", flagship of the China Fleet, 1933-34 under Admiral Sir Frederic Dreyer.
1 folder.
4/4 Photographs and correspondence while in command of "HMS Nelson" (flagship of the Home Fleet under Admiral Lord Cork and Orrery), 1934-5.
1 folder.
5/1 Papers and photographs of the period when Willis commanded "HMS Vernon", the torpedo school at Portsmouth, 1935-8.
1 folder.
5/2 Papers relating to Willis' time as Captain of "HMS Barham", Mediterranean Fleet, April 1938 to February 1939.
1 folder.
April 1938-February 1938
5/3 Papers relating to Willis' time as Commodore 1st Class and Chief of Staff to Admiral Sir Dudley Pound and Sir Andrew Cunningham as Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, February 1939 to April 1941.
1 folder.
February 1939-April 1941
5/4 Papers relating to Willis' time as Acting Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic Station at Sierra Leone August 1941 to February 1942.
1 folder.
August 1941-February 1942
5/5 Papers relating to Willis' time as Vice-Admiral commanding 3rd Battle Squadron and Second-in-Command, Eastern Fleet February 1942 to February 1943.
1 folder.
February 1942-February 1943
6/1 Papers relating to Willis' time as Flag Officer commanding "Force H", based on Gibraltar, for the invasions of Sicily (September 1943) and Italy (Salerno) March to October 1943.
1 folder.
March 1943-October 1943
6/2 Papers relating to Willis' time as Commander-in-Chief, Levant October 1943 to January 1944. Includes papers covering the operations in the Duodecanese Islands September-November 1943, and copy of Commander-in-Chief's conference report.
1 folder.
September 1943-January 1944
6/3 Papers relating to Willis' time as Second Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Personnel March 1944 to February 1946.
1 folder.
March 1944-February 1946
7/1 Papers relating to Willis' time as Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean April 1946 to June 1948.
1 folder.
April 1946-June 1948
7/2 Diary of Events, 23rd August 1947 to 21st January 1948.
1 volume.
August 1947-January 1948
8/1 Papers relating to Willis' time as Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth 21st July 1948 to 5th September 1950.
1 folder.
July 1948-September 1950
8/2 Press cuttings for 1948.
1 volume.
8/3 Press cuttings for 1949.
1 volume.
8/4 Press cuttings for 1950.
1 volume.
9/1 Promotion to Admiral of the Fleet, April 1949.
1 folder.
9/2 North Greenland Expedition, 1951.
1 folder.
9/3 Honours and decorations.
1 folder.
10/1 Correspondence with Cabinet Office Historical Section (Captain S. W. Roskill, Brigadier C. J. C. Moloney and Captain F. C. Flynn) about War Histories.
1 folder.
10/2 Paper on 'Churchill and The War at Sea 1939-45' and correspondence with Professor Arthur Marder, 1966-7.
1 folder.
10/3 Letters to the press about 'Importance of Malta' (8th February 1967) and 'South African Key to Defence' (9th January 1968).
1 folder.
10/4 Imperial War Museum: correspondence as Trustee 1956-67. Includes papers relating to the opening by H.M. The Queen, 2nd November 1966; the inauguration of 15 inch guns 1968; and his resignation and farewell, 29th March 1967.
1 folder.
11/1 Correspondence relating to his resignation as Vice-President, Officers' Association, 1963.
1 folder.
11/2 Unveiling of Cunningham bust in Trafalgar Square and plaque in St. Paul's Cathedral, 2nd April 1967.
1 folder.
11/3 Miscellaneous letters generally after Willis' retirement.
1 folder.
11/4 Miscellaneous and charitable activities mainly after Willis' retirement.
1 folder.
12/1 Papers relating to Willis' "War Memoirs".
2 folders.
ca. 1973–
12/2 Papers including an Admiralty Appreciation of Willis's services, 18th October 1950, and service sheet for his memorial service, Westminster Abbey, 28th May 1976.
1 folder.

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