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  • This photo was first published in the Retford Times following the death of Oscar Potter Willis
Person Details
Laxton
Oscar, otherwise known ""O P Willows"" was born in Laxton in 1887 and was the son of Frank a head teacher at the local Laxton school and Ruth Willis (nee Potter). The couple had three children, Harold Frank Potter born 1883 Bulwell, Ruth Barbara Potter born 1886 Upton and Oscar Potter born 1887 Laxton. in the 1901 census the family are living at the School House at Laxton, Frank is shown as a schoolmaster and is living with his wife and two children Barbara and Oscar, their third child Harold Frank Potter had already become a teacher like his father and had left home. In the 1911 census the family are still living at Laxton, although only Frank and Ruth are with their daughter Barbara, Harold Frank is living at 12 Beckingham Road, Leicester, he is a teacher and is boarding with Percy Hoddell and his family and Oscar Potter has also moved out of the family home, he is a boarder, 24 years of age living at 180 Charles Road, Birmingham, boarding with Edward Willmott and his family, he is at this time an elementary teacher. Oscar's probate was proven in Birmingham on 24th May 1918 he is shown as Oscar Potter Willis of 36 Clipston Road, Saltley, Birmingham, was a Corporal in the 8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died on or since 1st July 1916 in France, his effects of £142 9 shillings and 6 pence were left to his father Frank Willis a schoolmaster.
Oscar following in his fathers foot steps had gone to the Magnus School, Newark , served his ‘apprenticeship’ as a pupil-teacher at Lover’s Lane Council School, graduated to assistant at Tuxford Council School, and emerged from a course at Saltley Training College with a distinction in mathematics, which helped him get a post in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham
01 Jul 1916
29
593976 - CWGC Website
305348
Corporal
Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Frank was working and living in Saltley Birmingham when he enlisted in Birmingham in August 1914 , he went out to France to join the British Expeditionary Force in March 1915. He served with 'A' Coy 8th Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment where he became a corporal. He was one of the thousands of men who took part in the First day of the Battle of the Somme, he was at the head of a party carrying ammunition for the machine guns, and was hit immediately on reaching the parapet and probably fell into a shell hole and died. He was buried in Serre Road Cemetery No.1, Pas de Calais, France. 1.E.25. The following is an extract from the Magnus School diary of the 'Great War':- 'Laxton villagers were stunned on the same Sunday to hear that bright young Oscar Willis had been killed, aged 29. They had been expecting he would take over as head teacher at the village school from his father Frank, 58, when the time came. He had gone from there to the Magnus, served his ‘apprenticeship’ as a pupil-teacher at Lover’s Lane Council School, graduated to assistant at Tuxford Council School, and emerged from a course at Saltley Training College with a distinction in mathematics, which helped him get a post in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham. But now the villagers learned he was one of the first British soldiers to be gunned down on the parapets as the great advance began on the Somme. All the War Office managed to tell Frank and his wife Ruth was that Corporal Oscar Potter Willis, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was reported ‘wounded and missing’ on 1 July. A soldier quite unknown to the family, Corporal Roberts of the Welsh Guards, wrote on 15 August to Oscar’s sister Ruth Barbara, 30: ‘I am sorry it is very bad news I have to send. Your brother Oscar is killed. I don’t know whether you have had the news before. But I found him and I gave his pay-book to the Sergeant-Major, and a photo of a Sergeant-Major and a Sergeant. I trust that you will accept my deepest sympathy.’ The photo was of Oscar’s older brother, Harold, a Sergeant with the Leicestershire Regiment in Ireland. Members of Oscar’s Battalion also wrote, explaining that he was at the head of a party carrying ammunition for the machine guns, and was hit immediately on reaching the parapet and probably fell into a shell hole and died. ‘Poor old Oscar,’ a college chum of his wrote to Mrs Willis, ‘a thorough gentleman, a true friend, solid and staunch to the end.’ Oscar is remembered in the No.1 cemetery in the village of Serre 11 kilometres from the town of Albert. By a cruel twist, his sister Ruth was killed during World War Two. She was cycling home to Laxton from an Air Raid Precautions exercise at Ossington aerodrome when a stray German plane attacked her.
The Retford Times 25/8/1916 'The deepest sorrow was felt in the village of Laxton on Saturday when the sad news was received that Mr Oscar Potter Willis, a Corporal in the Royal Warwicks, had been killed in action. A report from the War Office on July 25th stated that Cpl Willis was “wounded and missing” in the engagement with the British Expeditionary Force on July 1st. No further communication has been received officially, but a soldier quite unknown to the family, Corpl Roberts of the Welsh Guards has written a letter from the Front, dated Aug 15th to Miss Willis in which he says:- “I am sorry it is very bad news I have to send. Your brother Oscar is killed. I don’t know whether you have had news before but I found him and I gave his pay book to the Sergeant Major and a sergeant. I trust that you will accept my deepest sympathy. The photo referred to is a picture post card of the elder brother Sgt H Willis with the Leicesters in Ireland and had been received from him by Miss Willis who afterwards sent it to her brother in France so the soldier was able to get the address from the post card. Corpl O P Willis was the son of Mr and Mrs Willis of the Schoolhouse, Laxton and was 29 years of age, being born at Laxton on February 4th 1887. He was educated at the village school and afterwards at the Newark Magnus Grammar School. He served his apprenticeship as a pupil teacher in the Loverlane Council School, Newark under Mr S A Hildage, B.A. He also served a short time as assistant in the Tuxford Council School. He then entered Saltley Training College with distinction in mathematics. On leaving college he was at once appointed as certificated asstistant under the Birmingham City Council, under which he served up to the time of enlistment in August 1914. He went across to France at the beginning of March 1915 and cane home on leave in December 1915. We learn from those in the same battalion that in the great fight on July 1st he was at the head of a party who were carrying ammunition for the machine guns and that he was probably killed by the bursting of a shell. He was a young man of noble character and was highly respected in the village. When he was over in December he gave the children a most interesting address on the soldiers equipment at the Front. This is the third of Laxton School Old Boys who have fallen in the war. The others were Corpl C Whitworth of the Sherwood Rangers who was killed at Gallipoli and Pte G Saxelby, of the Lincolns, who was with the B.E.F. in France.' His brother also served during the 'Great War' as a Sgt in the Leicestershire Regiment , at the time of Oscar's death he was serving in Ireland, he survived the war and died in 1957 in Leicestershire. Submitted by Colin Dannatt
Remembered on

Photos

  • This photo was first published in the Retford Times following the death of Oscar Potter Willis
    Oscar Potter Willis - This photo was first published in the Retford Times following the death of Oscar Potter Willis
  • Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone marking his grave at Serre Road Cemetery No 1   
Courtesy of Murray Biddle
    Oscar Potter Willis - Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone marking his grave at Serre Road Cemetery No 1 Courtesy of Murray Biddle