Michael Willetts

Michael Willetts

Michael Willetts GC.jpg
Born 13 August 1943
Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
Died 25 May 1971(1971-05-25) (aged 27)
Springfield Road Police Station, Belfast
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Sergeant
Unit 3 PARA, Parachute Regiment
Battles/wars Operation Banner 
Awards UK George Cross ribbon.svg George Cross

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. The Harvey Andrews song "Soldier" commemorates Willetts' sacrifice.

Early life

Born in 1943 in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England, 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.[1] 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 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.

George Cross

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.[2]

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.

External links


  1. ^ [Former link to www.gc-database.co.uk/recipients/WillettsM.htm (now spam) George Cross Database], Retrieved 2007-05-20
  2. ^ McKittrick pp.74
  3. ^ "No. 45404". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 June 1971. p. 6641.

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