Patrick Henry Willis AM

b. 17/03/1897 Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.  d. 27/11/1953 Morden, Surrey.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 09/06/1931 Gulf of Chihi, China.

Patrick H Willis AM

Patrick was the only son and youngest of three children of Henry and Helena Willis (nee Connor). Little is known about his early life, before joining the Royal Navy on 17th March 1915. He served throughout World War I. He transferred to submarines in 1926 and joined the HM S/M Poseidon on 1st October 1929. He was promoted to Chief Petty Officer following his Albert Medal action. He was newly married to Mary Deacon, and they had a son and a daughter. Following his retirement from the Royal Navy, he became a Chief Electrician at Merton Park Studios in Surrey. He is believed to be the last surviving holder of the AM in Gold for Sea Service.



On the 9th June, 1931, H.M. Submarine ” Poseidon ” collided with a merchant ship and eventually sank as a result of the severe damage sustained. After the collision occurred and the order “Close watertight doors” had been given, Petty Officer Willis took charge of the hands in the fore part, calling upon them to close the door of the torpedo compartment with those inside as this step might mean the saving of the submarine. The operation was difficult, as the bulkhead had buckled, but by their united efforts the door was eventually closed, leaving only a slight leak. Whilst this work was in progress the ship lurched to starboard and sank with heavy inclination by the bows. The electric light leads were all cut at the moment of the collision and from that time until the-final evacuation the imprisoned men were working with the occasional illumination of an electric torch. Willis first said prayers for himself and his companions and then ordered them to put on their escape apparatus, making sure. that they all knew how to use it. He then explained he was going to flood the compartment in order to equalise the pressure with that outside ..the submarine, and how it was to be done, telling off each man to his station. He also rigged a wire hawser across the hatchway to form a support for men to stand on whilst the compartment was flooding. During the long period of waiting which ensued, Willis kept.his companions in good heart, while one Able Seaman passed the ‘time in instructing a Chinese Boy in-the use of his apparatus. The other men worked cheerfully at the various valves and rigging the platform. After two hours and ten minutes when the water was about up to the men’s knees, Willis considered the pressure might be sufficient to open the hatch. With considerable difficulty -the hatch opened sufficiently to release two men, but the pressure then, reclbsed the hatch, and it was necessary to make the pressure more equal by further flooding before a second attempt could be made. After another hour, by which time the men in the compartment were nearly up to their necks in water and the air lock was becoming very small, a second effort was made. This was successful and the hatch opened, and four other men came to the surface, including Petty Officer Willis. It is abundantly clear that all the men imprisoned in the slowly flooding compartment in almost total darkness, faced a situation more than desperate, with courage and fortitude in accordance with the very highest traditions of the Service. The coolness, confidence, ability and power of command shown by Petty Officer Willis, which no doubt were principally responsible for the saving of so many valuable lives, are deserving of the very highest praise.