07 August 2011

George Cross: M. Willetts


Sergeant, 3d Battalion The Parachute Regiment

Born: 13 August 1943, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire
Died: 25 May 1971, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Citation: 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.

[London Gazette issue 45404 dated 22 Jun 1971, published 21 Jun 1971.]

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