Sergeant Michael Willetts 13th Aug 1943 – 22 May 1971

Sgt Michael Willett hero union jack

In memory of Sergeant Michael Willetts , GC & all other members of HM Armed Forces murdered by Irish Terrorists.

See below for the full story of this brave Hero’s death

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A short video, set to music, in memory Sergeant Michael G. Willets  and all those members of HM Armed Forces murdered by Irish Terrorists.


A True British hero

We salute you all –  Your memory will live on forever!

My son loves this song ( he’s 9 ) and it always brings a lump to my throat when I hear it and I feel myself  welling up. Its a funny thing being a patriot  sometimes , it can fill me with pride and love for my country and culture and other times melancholy flows through my being when I listen too and remember the sacrifice our glorious troops have paid to ensure our freedom and liberty.

Michael Willetts, GC (13 August 1943 – 25 May 1971) was one of the first British soldiers to be killed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the recipient of a posthumous George Cross for his heroism in saving lives during the Provisional Irish Republican Army bombing which claimed his own.

Early life

Parachute Regiment cap badge.jpg

Born in 1943 in the Nottinghamshire town of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Michael Willetts entered a local colliery after leaving school but found that he did not suit the job and soon afterwards joined the British Army, serving in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. He married his wife, Sandra and had two children, Dean and Trudy during his time in the army.

After several tours abroad and a promotion to sergeant, Willetts was dispatched with the rest of his regiment to Northern Ireland at the outbreak of violence there between Irish nationalists and the unionist Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1971. Placed with his squad at Springfield Road police station in Belfast, Willetts engaged in local operations until 25 May 1971, when he was killed in a Provisional IRA bomb attack on the barracks.

Willetts was killed in Springfield Road RUC station by the Provisional IRA. A man in his mid-twenties emerged from a car and threw a suitcase containing a blast bomb into the lobby of the station. Willetts thrust two children and two adults into a corner and stood above them as the 30 lbs of explosives detonated, seriously injuring him.

Seven RUC officers, two British soldiers and eighteen civilians were injured in the attack. Willetts was fatally injured by a chunk of metal from a locker which had struck him in the back of the head. As he was being removed by ambulance, he and the injured officers were jeered by local youths who screamed obscenities at them. Willetts died after two hours on the operating table at Royal Victoria Hospital.

The sacrifice of Sergeant Michael G. Willets, 27, 3 Para.

The Harvey Andrews song “Soldier” commemorates Willetts’ sacrifice.

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WORDS

In a station in the city a British soldier stood
Talking to the people there if the people would
Some just stared in hatred, and others turned in pain
And the lonely British soldier wished he was back home again

Come join the British Army! Said the posters in his town
See the world and have your fun come serve before the Crown
The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole
So he took his country’s shilling and enlisted on the roll

For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost
Just ten years in the army getting paid for being bossed
Then leave a man experienced a man who’s made the grade
A medal and a pension some mem’ries and a trade

Then came the call to Ireland as the call had come before
Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war
The priests they stood on both sides the priests they stood behind
Another fight in Jesus name the blind against the blind

The soldier stood between them between the whistling stones
And then the broken bottles that led to broken bones
The petrol bombs that burnt his hands the nails that pierced his skin
And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin

The station filled with people the soldier soon was bored
But better in the station than where the people warred
The room filled up with mothers with daughters and with sons
Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his gun

A yell of fear a screech of brakes the shattering of glass
The window of the station broke to let the package pass
A scream came from the mothers as they ran towards the door
Dragging children crying from the bomb upon the floor

The soldier stood and could not move his gun he could not use
He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse
He could not run to pick it up and throw it in the street
There were far too many people there too many running feet

Take cover! Yelled the soldier, Take cover for your lives
And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives
They turned towards the soldier their eyes alive with fear
For God’s sake save our children or they’ll end their short lives here

The soldier moved towards the bomb his stomach like a stone
Why was this his battle God why was he alone
He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell
To those at home in England to those he loved so well

He saw the sights of summer felt the wind upon his brow
The young girls in the city parks how precious were they now
The soaring of the swallow the beauty of the swan
The music of the turning world so soon would it be gone

A muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake
The soldier blown across the floor his blood a crimson lake
They never heard him cry or shout they never heard him moan
And they turned their children’s faces from the blood and from the bones

The crowd outside soon gathered and the ambulances came
To carry off the body of a pawn lost in the game
And the crowd they clapped and cheered and they sang their rebel songs
One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong

But will the children growing up learn at their mothers’ knees
The story of the soldier who bought their liberty
Who used his youthful body as a means towards an end
Who gave his life to those who called him murderer not friend

Sgt Michael Willetts Memorial Badge

Roll Call Sergeant Michael Willetts, GC – 25 May 1971

At 8.24 pm on the evening of 25 May 1971 a terrorist entered the Springfield Road Police Station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumped it quickly on the floor and fled outside. Inside the room were two adults, two children and several police officers.

The police officers raised the alarm and began to organize the evacuation of the hall past the reception desk, through the reception office and out of the door into the rear passage.

Sergeant Michael Willetts, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was on duty in the inner hall. Hearing the alarm, he sent an NCO up to the first floor to warn those above and hastened to the door towards which a police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway, shielding those taking cover.

In the next moment, the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sergeant Willets was mortally wounded.

His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area, his post was elsewhere. He knew well, after four month’s service in Belfast, the peril of going towards a terrorist bomb but he did not hesitate to do so. All those approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door they would have perished. Even when those in the room had reached the rear passage, Sergeant Willets waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.

Commemoration of 40th anniversary of Michael Willetts GC deatth

By this considered act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children. His selflessness and courage are beyond praise.

Sergeant Willetts is now buried at St Mary’s Church, Blidworth in Nottinghamshire.

by Paradata Editor

Medal citation

The George Cross was awarded to Sergeant Willett’s widow in June and the citation appeared in the London Gazette at the same time.

The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross to:
2391067 Sergeant Michael WILLETTS, The Parachute Regiment.

At 8.24 p.m. on the evening of 25th May 1971, a terrorist entered the reception hall of the Springfield Road Police Station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumped it quickly on the floor and fled outside. Inside the room were a man and a woman, two children and several police officers. One of the latter saw at once the smoking case and raised the alarm. The Police Officers began to organise the evacuation of the hall past the reception desk, through the reception office and out by a door into the rear passage.

Sergeant Michael Willetts was on duty in the inner hall. Hearing the alarm, he sent an N.C.O. up to the first floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which a Police Officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway, shielding those taking cover. In the next moment, the bomb exploded with terrible force.

Sergeant Willetts was mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area, his post was elsewhere. He knew well, after 4 months service in Belfast, the peril of going towards a terrorist bomb but he did not hesitate to do so. All those approaching the door from the far side agree that if they had had to check to open the door they would have perished. Even when they had reached the rear passage, Sergeant Willetts waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them. By this considered act of bravery, he risked – and lost – his life for those of the adults and children. His selflessness, his courage are beyond praise. 22nd June 1971

London Gazette, 21 June 1971

If you would like to read extracts from my autobiography please follow link above.

Listed Operations

01/10/1969 – 01/07/2007 Northern Ireland (Operation Banner)

 

On the evening of the 25th May 1971 an IRA terrorist entered the reception hall of Springfield Road Police station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumping the case on the floor he fled out-side, inside the room were a man a woman and two children and several police officers. One of the police officers raised the alarm then began organising an evacuation of the hall through the reception office.

The funeral cortege of Sgt M Willetts GC 1971

Sgt Willetts was on duty in the inner hall, on hearing the alarm he sent an NCO to the first floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which the police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office.

He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway shielding those taking cover.

In the next moment the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sgt Willetts was mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area. All those people who were approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door, They would have perished.

grave stone

 

Sgt Willetts waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.

By this act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children.

Sgt Michael Willetts was awarded the George Cross (Posthumous).

Republicans jeered when the ambulance arrived, but Willets had saved Catholic civilians and children. The IRA had no such respect for life.

treasurer-markholdingwiththem_willettsgcmemorialbench 2.jpg

See Para Chute Regiment for more details

A Child of the Troubles

Don’t forget to read extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child , which tells the amazing story of my life growing up on the Loyalist Shankill Road and my secret 25 year search for my  ” Dead” catholic mother.

Click this link or see above for first eight chapters.

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