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War Diary of Captain Alan W. Willis (Lieut.Cmdr. R.D. R.N.R. Ret’d )

Thirteen years after the death of his wife Harry married Lily Margaret Malpas in 1933, a very successful partnership to which Keith was born (1934). Alan got on well with that redoubtable (formidable?) lady whose strict disciplinarian attitude did not extend to her husband for Harry (known only by her as Bernard) called the shots apparently. So- what of Alan -the man himself ? His modesty is immediately apparent in his description of events. Indeed his views on his war service consistently suggest that he had an ‘easy’ war and suffered little deprivation, and genuinely thought that the civilians of our heavily bombed cities fared far worse than he did - comments that you might find a little hard to accept. What else? Well, he possesses an easygoing authority which fitted him well for the command of men, never a problem to him. A convivial man who enjoyed letting his hair down with his brother officers, but who was, and is, essentially a loner, happy with his own company. This characteristic too fitted him well as executive officer and later Captain of his own ship. He is both a kindly and unemotional man whom I found impressively uncritical of family, friends or colleagues (not a harsh word for anyone). I must add that in our conversations together, the presence of Sheila was most helpful. She not only encouraged the formation of some of his responses, she also added touches of warmth and humanity to his often coldly factual commentary, though of course her knowledge of these events were limited as she was not to meet him until the War had ended . This, for me, has been a voyage of discovery of great interest, and I feel privileged to share so many memories with them both. These observations of mine are incomplete and will regrettably remain so for to do justice to his story would fill a book rather than this inadequate resume of Alan’s war experiences. It was interesting to note that though he gave me information freely and fully, he made it clear that he would not want it published (little chance of th a t!) and was conditional upon it being circulated So --- here was young Alan, survivor of both Scarlet Fever and Rheumatic Fever as a boy (only member of the family not to be vaccinated) who won a scholarship to Ross Grammar School, and whose skill in drawing and art suggested a career in Architecture. However, there was the call of the sea - perhaps relating back to family holidays at Barry Island at a time when the Bristol Channel ports were crowded with shipping feeding the (then) World’s appetite for coal. Page 3
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