Willis, George Harry Smith (DNB01)

WILLIS, Sir GEORGE HARRY SMITH (1823–1900), general, colonel of the Middlesex regiment, of Stretham Manor, Cambridgeshire, only son of Lieutenant George Brander Willis, royal artillery, of Sopley Park, Hampshire, who had served in the Walcheren and Peninsular campaigns, was born at Sopley Park on 11 Nov. 1823. Educated privately he obtained a commission on 23 April 1841 as ensign in the 77th foot, then stationed at Malta. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 30 Aug. 1844, captain 27 Dec. 1850, brevet major 12 Dec. 1854, brevet, lieutenant-colonel 6 June 1856, major unattached 19 Dec. 1856, brevet colonel 26 June 1862, major-general 29 May 1875, antedated to 28 June 1868, lieutenant-general 8 May 1880, general 11 May 1887.

Willis served with his regiment in the Mediterranean, the West Indies, and North America, and accompanied it to the Crimea in 1854, was present at the affair of Bulganac and McKenzie's farm, at the battles of Alma (20 Sept.) and of Inkerman (5 Nov.), where his regiment distinguished itself, Willis leading the grenadier company in the charge. He did one hundred tours of duty in the trenches before Sebastopol, and took part in the repulse of several sorties. On 13 April 1855 he was appointed deputy-assistant quartermaster-general on Lord Raglan's staff, and was present at the capture of the quarries, the unsuccessful attack of the Redan on 18 Juno the battle of the Tchernaya in August, and the fall of Sebastopol on 8 Sept. On 11 May 1866 he was appointed assistant quartermaster-general to the 4th division until the return of the troops to England.

For his services in the Crimea he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 24 April 1855), received the war medal with three clasps, the Sardinian and Turkish medals, the 5th class of the legion of honour and of the Medjidie, and brevets of major and lieutenant-colonel.

Willis went to Algeria with the French after the Crimean war, and n-turned home in 1857, when he formed the second battalion of the 6th foot (Warwickshire), with which he served as major until his appointment to be assistant quartermaster-general at Gibraltar on 25 May 1858. He was transferred to Malta as assist ant adjutant-general on 20 Feb. 1859, and remained there fire years. From 22 Feb. 1866 he served for five years as assistant quartermaster-general on the staff of the southern district, was made a companion of the order of the Bath. military division, on 20 May 1871, and served on the headquarters staff at the war office as assistant quartermaster-general from 25 Aug. 1873 until his promotion to be major-general.

Willis commanded the northern military district for three years from 1 April 1878, and in 1882 was selected to command the first division in the Egyptian expedition under Sir Garnet (afterwards Viscount) Wolseley. He was in command of the troops at the actions of El Magfar and Tel-el-Mahuta, at the capture of Mahsameh, at the second battle of Kassassin on 9 Sept., and was wounded in the assault of the lines of Tel-el-Kebir (13 Sept.) For his services he was mentioned in despatches (ib. 8 and 26 Sept., 6 Oct., and 2 Nov. 1882), received the thanks of both houses of parliament, the medal with clasp and the bronze star, the second class of the Turkish order of the Osmanieh, and was made a K.C.B.

Willis commanded the southern military district with headquarters at Portsmouth for five years from 1 May 1884, and retired from the service on 11 Nov. 1890. In July of this year he was appointed colonel of the Devonshire regiment, and in October honorary colonel of the 2nd Hants volunteer artillery. He unsuccessfully contested Portsmouth as a parliamentary candidate in the conservative interest in 1892. Decorated with a G.C.B. on 25 May 1895, in 1897 he was transferred to the colonelcy of his old regiment, the Middlesex. He was a grand officer of the legion of honour, and a Knight of justice of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and was in receipt of a distinguished service pension. He died after a long illness at his residence, Seabank, Bournemouth, on 29 Nov. 1900.

Willis married, first, in 1856, Eliza (d. 1867), daughter of George Gould Morgan, M.P., of Brickendonbury, Hertfordshire; and, secondly, in 1874, Ada Mary, daughter of Sir John Neeld, first baronet, who survived him.

[War Office Records; Army Lists; Despatches; Who's Who, 1900; Times, 30 Nov. 1900; Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea; Maurice's Military History of the Campaign of 1882 in Egypt; Royle's Egyptian Campaigns, 1882-5.]

R. H. V.