“Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war…..”

Sergeant Michael Willetts GC  3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment


The other night, I was doing something I often do, and that was flick on random songs on “youtube”, and a song by a folk artist Harvey Andrews, called 2The British Soldier”.

Here’s a link to the Youtube video/song:


And here are the Lyrics:

In a station in the city a British soldier stood

Talking to the people there if the people would

Some just stared in hatred, and others turned in pain

And the lonely British soldier wished he was back home again


Come join the British Army! said the posters in his town

See the world and have your fun come serve before the Crown

The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole

So he took his country’s shilling and enlisted on the roll


For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost

Just ten years in the army getting paid for being bossed

Then leave a man experienced a man who’s made the grade

A medal and a pension some mem’ries and a trade


Then came the call to Ireland as the call had come before

Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war

The priests they stood on both sides the priests they stood behind

Another fight in Jesus name the blind against the blind


The soldier stood between them between the whistling stones

And then the broken bottles that led to broken bones

The petrol bombs that burnt his hands the nails that pierced his skin

And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin


The station filled with people the soldier soon was bored

But better in the station than where the people warred

The room filled up with mothers with daughters and with sons

Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his gun


A yell of fear a screech of brakes the shattering of glass

The window of the station broke to let the package pass

A scream came from the mothers as they ran towards the door

Dragging children crying from the bomb upon the floor


The soldier stood and could not move his gun he could not use

He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse

He could not run to pick it up and throw it in the street

There were far too many people there too many running feet


Take cover! yelled the soldier, Take cover for your lives

And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives

They turned towards the soldier their eyes alive with fear

For God’s sake save our children or they’ll end their short lives here


The soldier moved towards the bomb his stomach like a stone

Why was this his battle God why was he alone

He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell

To those at home in England to those he loved so well


He saw the sights of summer felt the wind upon his brow

The young girls in the city parks how precious were they now

The soaring of the swallow the beauty of the swan

The music of the turning world so soon would it be gone


A muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake

The soldier blown across the floor his blood a crimson lake

They never heard him cry or shout they never heard him moan

And they turned their children’s faces from the blood and from the bones


The crowd outside soon gathered and the ambulances came

To carry off the body of a pawn lost in the game

And the crowd they clapped and cheered and they sang their rebel songs

One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong


But will the children growing up learn at their mothers’ knees

The story of the soldier who bought their liberty

Who used his youthful body as a means towards an end

Who gave his life to those who called him murderer not friend


I liked the flow of the song and decided to have a look into and never realised that it was based around the gallant actions of Sergeant Willetts GC on the 27th May 1971. For his heroic and self sacrificing conduct, he was awarded the George Cross.


Paradata.org gives this detail:

“At 8.24 pm on the evening of 25 May 1971 a terrorist entered the Springfield Road Police Station in Belfast. He carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumped it quickly on the floor and fled outside. Inside the room were two adults, two children and several police officers.

The police officers raised the alarm and began to organize the evacuation of the hall past the reception desk, through the reception office and out of the door into the rear passage.

Sergeant Michael Willetts, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was on duty in the inner hall. Hearing the alarm, he sent an NCO up to the first floor to warn those above and hastened to the door towards which a police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway, shielding those taking cover.

In the next moment, the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sergeant Willetts was mortally wounded.

His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area, his post was elsewhere. He knew well, after four month’s service in Belfast, the peril of going towards a terrorist bomb but he did not hesitate to do so. All those approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they had had to check to open the door they would have perished. Even when those in the room had reached the rear passage, Sergeant Willets waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.

By this considered act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and children. His selflessness and courage are beyond praise.”


So strange the way these things happen that by hearing a song on a random flick on a playlist, allowed me to learn all about such a brave man, there have been many others and as it stand most people know about the VC winners and the famous actions but very few remember those who won the GC in the “quiet” sides of conflict, and not in direct contact with the enemy.


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