DIVISIONAL UNIT: 4th Canadian Infantry Division
10th Infantry Brigade
47th Battalion - West Ontario
Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO: 654489
AWARDS: Military Medal
RESIDENCE: Exeter – Ontario
DATE OF BIRTH: April 8, 1896
Stephen Township – County of Huron - Ontario
DATE OF DEATH: September 27, 1918 22 years 5 months
CEMETERY: Quarry Wood Cemetery – Sains-les-Marquion –
Pas de Calais – France
I A 17
PARENT: Mr. John H. Willis – Exeter - Ontario
Occupation: Farmer Religion: Methodist
Enlistment: Exeter – February 22, 1916 – 161st Huron Battalion
Enlistment Age: 19 years 11 months
The 161st arrived in Halifax following their journey from Huron County, boarded their ship and watched the shores of Canada disappear and arrived in England on November 11, 1916. He is at Witley Camp – Surrey until he went overseas into France on April 11, 1918 and was Taken on Strength by the Canadian 4th Reserve Battalion. Then on June 6, 1918 he joined his unit in the field.
Private Willis joined his unit in the field on June 6, 1918.
On September 27th the fight for Cambrai began with units quickly crossing the Canal du Nord and advancing on the enemy positions. The leading units were successful in their advance but other units met heavy enemy machine fun fire from the flank on the south that was exposed. One unit pushed to south of the Bourlon Wood but took casualties. Other units captured the village of Bourlon moved north around the wood toward the Marcoing Line. Other units carried the attack to the east of the Bourlon Wood and by early evening the advance was halted to the west of the Marcoing Line.
The 47th Battalion was in support of the 44th Battalion for this operation until the Marcoing line was taken and at that time the 47th Battalion would leap-frog through and take up the lead in the assault. As they assembled the weather became wet.
At 05:20 hours the barrage began. The 44th Battalion led off, following the barrage closely with the 47th Battalion following as close as possible to avoid the enemy counter barrage.
The objective of the 44th Battalion was the Canal du Nord and it would be here at the Sunken Road where the 47th Battalion would take the lead. The objective at that point was the Marcoing Line.
“A & C” Companies would lead with “B & D” Companies in support. There was little resistance until the Battalion was near the Marcoing Line and then the enemy brought down heavy machine-gun fire. The 47th Battalion was able to capture this enemy position.
The Marcoing Line objective was reached at 07:15 hours and the Battalion re-organized and consolidated their positions. By this point all of the men of “B” Company had been wounded.
At 09:40 hours “C” had their objective and by 10:00 hours “B” had their objective as well.
The 47th Battalion then prepared for an enemy counter-attack or to continue with the advance. At 2 pm word came down that the Battalion on the left was held up and could not advance further.
To this point casualties numbered 272 men and at the end of the day 38 men had been killed.
It was during this advance on the Marcoing Line when Private Willis was killed in action.