Willis, James Denning (No. 2551)

Willis, James Denning (James)

Lance Corporal

No. 2551, 2nd/6th (Perthshire) Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)      

Killed in action on Saturday 10 July 1915 (aged 24)


Rue-David Military Cemetery, France (Grave II. G. 8)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour


James Denning Willis was born on 11 December 1890 at 43 Stranmillis Road, Belfast and he was a son of William and Margaret Willis (nee Denning) who were married on 1 October 1888 in Belfast Registrar’s Office.  William Willis of 19 Virginia Terrace, Belfast was a son of David Willis, a gentleman.  Margaret Denning of 30 Albion Street, Belfast was a daughter of James Denning, a farmer.

The Willis family lived in Belfast, in Laurence Street; Stranmillis Road; Eglantine Avenue; Malone Avenue and at Ashburton, Bangor.

William Willis was a plumber, heating engineer and inventor and he and Margaret had four children:

Frederick William (Fred, born 14 October 1889 at 12 Laurence Street, Belfast)

James Denning (born 11 December 1890 at 43 Stranmillis Road, Belfast)

David Randolph (born 9 January 1895 at 17 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast)

Edna Rebecca (born 27 August 1897 at 15 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast)

William Willis designed a hydraulic ram and Fred Willis developed the Willis Grate Back Boiler.  Fred’s son, Jack Willis, invented the Willis Immersion Heater.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, James Denning Willis worked as a plumber.  He enlisted in Belfast, served with the Black Watch and was 24 when he was killed in action on 10 July 1915.

Lance Corporal James Denning Willis’s death was reported in the 23 July 1915 edition of the County Down Spectator under the headline Tribute to a Bangor Soldier.

Major Wylie, officer commanding the 6th Black Watch (Territorials) wrote to James’s father at Ashburton, Bangor to express his condolences and, in the letter, he described the circumstances of James’s death.  In company with another Lance Corporal and two others, James was out at night in no man’s land in search of information about enemy operations and movements.  Major Wylie said, ‘Our party encountered a patrol of ten or twelve Germans who were lying in ambush and before our men could open fire Lance Corporals Newel and Willis fell mortally wounded’.  The men opened fire, dispersed the Germans and returned for help.  James’s body was recovered and buried in a little graveyard after a short service at the graveside.

Lance Corporal James Denning Willis was buried in Rue-David Military Cemetery, France and he is commemorated in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 664).