The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. W O Willis
William Owen Willis was born in Ahipara, North Island on 6th October 1910. After leaving school he trained as a linotype operator and worked for various newspapers. Although he had served in the Territorial Army for four years, Willis volunteered for aircrew duties at the outbreak of war.
He was in his thirtieth year when he reported to the Ground Training School Weraroa on 9th April 1940, an advanced age for a trainee air gunner.
In early May Willis went to the Air Observers School Ohakea for a gunnery course. He sailed for the UK on 7th June 1940 in the RMS Rangitata.
After arrival on 20th July he went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge to await a posting. On 30th July Willis went to 5 OTU Aston Down. After converting to Blenheims was awarded his air gunners badge and posted to 600 Squadron at Redhill on 21st September 1940.
When the squadron began to get Beaufighters, the air gunners did little flying and Willis and others requested transfer to Bomber Command. He went to 11 OTU Bassingbourn on 6th February 1941 and after crewing-up and converting to Wellingtons joined 9 Squadron at Honington on 18th April 1941.
With his tour completed, Willis was posted to 27 OTU Lichfield on 4th September 1941 as an instructor.
Commissioned in September 1942, he returned to New Zealand on 3rd August 1943. He joined 2 Squadron at Ohakea but was transferred to No. 1 OTU as Gunnery Leader.
Willis was medically discharged on 7th December 1943. He returned to newspapers but after the war went on a sheep-farming course at Massey University.
His health was not up to it and he once again returned to newspapers.
He died on 23rd April 1969.