Press cuttings about descendants of George Wills of Pepperdon

(provided by Peter Wills: copyright status not checked)



A.1. People in Commerce – Mr. Richard Wills (from Commerce – Journal of the London Chamber of Commerce, November 1962, p. 1505)

FOR a man who, according to the official records, was killed in the heroic raid on Dieppe during the last war, Mr. Richard Wills is very much alive indeed a man of unusual energy and industry.

He is managing director of George Wills and Sons Limitedwho have a hand in just about everything to do with importing, exporting, shipping and chartering; a vice-president and extremely active member of the London Chamber of Commerce; and sailor and skier, a golfer and a fisherman. When the authoritative book on the Dieppe raid appeared, Mr. Wills read, with a certain understandable surprise, of his own “gallant death on the beaches”, and he drew the publishers’ attention to this slight oversight. He was amused when they wrote back regretting any inconvenience he might have been caused. On all the evidence, it was no inconvenience at all.

Mr. Wills was born in London in March, 1914, and educated at HarrowStraight from school he was drafted into the family business and that might well have summed up the story of his life.

The firm was founded by his grandfather who, with his brother, sailed for Australia with a tin trunk full of piece goods, and set up in Adelaide in 1849. They prospered to such a degree that eventually his grandfather, George Wills, had to return home and establish the British end of the enterprise. However, having gone to Australia to learn his trade at the age of 17, Mr. Richard Wills decided, after four years, that the work was not for him. He wanted to read modern languages at Cambridge.

So, a little older in years and a great deal older in experience, he went up to Corpus Christi where he fought for Cambridge in the judo team and took a second class honours degree in French and German, (languages in which he still reads for pleasure).

He sat the Foreign Service examination. He says he “just scraped through”. Eighteen were selected, and he was the 18th; but as 240 sat, that hardly tells the whole story. Given the alternatives of a consulate in South America or a job in the newly formed Industrial Intelligence Centre, he opted for the latter. It was 1938, and war was in the air.

The I.T.C. was to form the nucleus of the intelligence service of the Ministry of Economic Warfare. It was a reserved occupation; and once in, it was difficult for Mr. Wills to get out. However, he succeeded by resigning from the Civil Service, and joined the army.

He went from the ranks to O.C.T.U., and after only three months with his regiment, volunteered for the commandos. He was one of only three officers who were founders of No.3 Commandoto survive the war. At Dieppe he was awarded the Military Cross; and though not killed, whatever the records say, he was captured. He remained a prisoner of war until released by General Patton.

Returning to England on V.E. day plus one, he eventually re-joined the Foreign Service. He asked not to be sent abroad for a while, and was appointed private secretary to the Minister for Overseas Trade.

The family firm, however, so soon after the war, was extremely short of staff, and pressed him to return to the job he had left when he came of age. So for the second time and the last, he resigned from the Civil Service.

As managing director – as well as vice-chairman of the holding company – it is his responsibility to undertake most of the long range travel. Last year he made five trips to South Africa alone, and was away altogether for five months. And although that was an exceptionally heavy programme, it is usual for him to spend a couple of months abroad each year.

To this he adds his Chamber of Commerce activities. Introduced by John McLean, then head of the Wills company, in 1946, he held his first office with the British Export Houses Association.He went onto the Council, became its Treasurer, then its Deputy Chairman, and would have become Chairman had he not been invited to join the Rochdale Committee.

He had to give up something, for he had other commitments, too. He is for instance, on the Palmer Committee, which advises the Government on Common Market questions. Even his pleasures are taken strenuously. He fishes in Scotland; conveniently a POW friend, his partner in attempts to escape, has a hotel in the Highlands. He crews on another friend’s boat on the south coast. He golfs and skis when and where he has the chance.

He is married, with a step-daughter. He lives in the centre of things, in St. John’s Wood. He is busy and content. He admits to no unfulfilled ambitions, except to expand the firm’s business. After a more eventful life than most, Mr. Richard Wills has, in his own words, found his niche. GEOFFREY NICOLSON

Original Archive N. 18

A.2. R. L. J. Wills, Docks board chairman. Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, date unknown (1969)

Mr. Richard Lloyd Joseph Wills, who was appointed chairman of the British Transport Docks Boardon Aug. 6, died in London yesterday. He was 55 and was at his desk at the board’s London headquarters the previous evening. Mr. Wills had been a member of the board since January, 1963 and became its vice-chairman last year.

He was president of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce from 1964 to 1966 and was a vice-president of the London Chamber of Commerce and of the British Export Houses Association. In 1961 he was appointed a member of the Docks and Harbours Committee of Inquiry. He was vice-chairman of George Wills and Sons (Holdings) and managing director of George Wills and Sons, exporters and importers, and also of Fowlie Reid and Wills, and a director of F.J.Hawkes and Co. and E.T. Evans (Shippers), all export shippers.

Educated at Harrow and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Mr. Wills entered the Civil Service, joining a new department called the Industrial Intelligence Centre. This was attached to the Department of Overseas Trade, but in fact, worked under the Committee of Imperial Defence. On the outbreak of war it became the intelligence department of the Ministry of Economic Warfare.

He was commissioned in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, volunteered for No.3 Commando and took part in number of raids, including Dieppe in 1942. He was wounded, taken prisoner and was awarded the M.C.

After the war he returned to the Civil Service and became private secretary to Mr. Marquand, then Minister in charge of the overseas trade side of the Board of Trade. He was appointed CBE for services to exports in 1961. In 1948 he married Joan Eileendaughter of Keith Abercrombie, and has a stepdaughter.

Original (with photograph) Archive N. 6

B. Philip Aubrey Wills (1907-1978)

B 1. Extract from “1000 makers of Sport. Sunday Times Supplement, late 1990.

Philip Wills: Glider Pilot, England A pre-war pioneer of gliding and for many years the leader of the sport in Britain, Philip Wills was the first Briton to win the World Championship. He came to gliding in the early 1930’s and set many British records for distance flying. By then he already had a private aeroplane pilot’s licence, and during the second world war became commandant of the Air transport Auxiliary. Gliders were still built of wood when he won the world title in Spain in 1952, but his enthusiasm showed no signs of diminishing as high technology and fibreglass transformed the sport during the 1960s. Wills was by then in his 20 year period as chairman of the British Gliding Association, during which he led a crusade to increase both the freedom and the personal responsibility of glider pilots. He continued flying until he was 65 and the name lives on. Of his three sons, Chris is president of the Vintage Glider Club and the youngest, Justin, is a competitive pilot of international distinction. Original: Archive N. 5

B 2. Extracts from Who Was Who 1970-80

WILLS, Philip Aubrey, CBE 1945; President, George Wills & Sons (Holdings) Ltd, since 1977 (Chairman, 1959-77); b 26 May 1907; s of C.P. Wills; m 1931, Katharine Fisher; three s one d. Educ: Harrow. Learnt to fly 1928, owned a light aeroplane and in 1932 took up gliding. Took part in rapid development of British sail-flying from that date; second British holder of international “Silver C” in 1934, held British records for height and distance on and off since 1934. First British holder of International Gold Badge (No.3) for flights of over 3000 metres and 300 km distance on a sailplane. Senior pilot British team at seven World Gliding Championships; World Champion, 1952 (single-seaters), Madrid. Died 16Jan.1978.

Joined ATA in 1939, became 2nd in command and Director of Operations. Qualified to ferry all types of single-, twin and multi-engined aircraft. General Manager (Technical) British European Airways Corporation, 1946-8; President of the British Gliding Association; Chm., Royal Aero Club, 1975-77. AFRAeS; Coronation Medal, 1953; British gold medal for aeronautics, 1960. Publications: On Being a Bird, 1953; Where No Birds Fly, 1961; Free as a Bird. 1973; The Inevitability of Confrontation, Part 1, 1974, Part 2,1975; contributions to the technical and nontechnical press on motorless flight, aircraft accident prevention, etc. Recreation: sail-flying. Address: 54 Holland Park Mews, WII. Original: Archive N. 7

B 3. Extracts from the Flying Log of P.A. Wills – notes by Peter Wills

We have on file copies of extracts from the Flying Log of Philip Wills, which is now in the possession of Christopher Wills. They were extracted to show that Philip used to fly to Pepperdon before World War II, as stated in ‘Memories of Moretonhampstead’ and confirmed by Clarence Colwill (who remembers his father putting out an old pillowcase as a windsock in a field up at Lewdons when Philip was due to land. We also have a picture of Philip with his first aeroplane. See Search:Pictures, search for Wills.

The first extract for 4th April 1931 shows him flying via Teignmouth to Pepperdon, taking George Tarlton Wills as passenger, and back to Ringwood with Miss Fisher as passenger. I suspect that “Miss Fisher” was Kitty, who he married three weeks later.

The second flight (2.3.32) is recorded as going to “Moretonhampstead”, so there may have been another landing field in the area. He then (4/3/32) goes to Haldon, where his passengers include Mrs Stapledon, my grandmother, and his aunt, Mrs G.T.Wills.

The final trip is to Plymouth, where his mother lived at that time, then to Pepperdon (2/3/33) carrying my mother and me! On the return to Heston he carried his brother, Richard Wills.

P.G.B. Wills, Nov. 2000