The Parachute Regimental Association

 

(Nottingham Branch)


Charity Number: 1124238

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MICHAEL WILLETTS MEMORIAL


Friday 25th May 2012


St Mary's Church Blidworth

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On Friday the 25th of May 2012 Nottingham and Newark branches of the Parachute Regimental Association made their annual dedication memorial service to Michael Willetts GC who was killed while protecting women and children in Northern Ireland on 25th of May 1971. This year we also had Michael's Father, Sister and Niece with us to celebrate Michael's life. The service started off  with forming up  in front  of Michael's grave and with Standard bearers from both branches flanking Michael's grave, John Needham President of Nottingham branch read out Michael's George Cross citation and the airborne prayer. Michael O'Connor, Nottingham branches Chairman laid a wreath and Stuart McNair of Newark branch played the last post.


After the ceremony photo's were taken  and branch members and Michael's family headed to the Bird in the Hand public house where a buffet had been laid on.  This gave everyone the chance to catch up with old friends. The day was a success and next year it will be Newark branches turn to host the event.


MICHAEL WILLETTS GEORGE CROSS CITATION

The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross to:

23910067 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

 

Michael Willetts GC Memorial and Bench dedication


Monday 25th May 2015


Monday 25th of May was a day that Nottingham and Newark Branches of the Parachute Regimental Association had been waiting for. As well as paying our respects to Michael Willetts GC as we do annually, this was a special occasion, as we were unveiling a new memorial bench in place of the wooden one that was in need of refurbishment every two years or so, due to weather exposure.



On the day we were joined by Michael Willetts GC's Daughter, Brother and Sister and other relatives. Michael's former friends from 3 Para, included Lawrence Ashbridge MBE. The parade marshal for the day was Nottingham Branch President, John Needham. Branch standards from Nottingham and Derby Branches of the PRA and Blidworth and Allenton RBL Standards were also in attendance. The last post was played by Stewart McNair of Newark Branch. Colonel (Retd) John Tinsley, read out the citation and Reverend Hazel Robinson of St Mary's Church read the Airborne Prayer. Joe King of Newark Branch read the act of remembrance.



After the graveside service family members and PRA members made their way to the new memorial bench, where Reverend Hazel Robinson gave a short service and dedication. This was followed with family and group photos around the new bench. Afterwards we all retired to the Bird In Hand pub for a social gathering and buffet. The day had gone well, and we will continue to honour one of the the Parachute Regiments heroes for as long as an Airborne Brother is around to do so.


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Michael Willetts GC Memorial 25th May 2014