Barry Willis – LaA 34-42

Friday 26 October 2018

Barry was born on August 7th 1924 in Newbury, Berkshire. After early education at local primary schools he won a West’s Gift Scholarship to Christ’s Hospital (the Bluecoat School, near Horsham) which he attended from 1934- 1942. In his final year there he was awarded first 15 colours for rugby, and in athletics won the Senior Quarter Mile, Half Mile and Mile.

Barry was a student at Reading University for a year. He then served in the Royal Air Force for 3 years before returning to Reading where he met his future wife Chris.

In the RAF he qualified for his pilot’s wings in South Africa, flying elderly Hurricanes, and was then moved to Egypt. Barry recalled the journey north as an unexpected highlight of an undistinguished military career. It is hard to believe now that the flight from Durban to Cairo took 4 days and was made as a passenger in a flying boat which first landed on the sea and then on lakes and rivers. From time to time scattering herds of wild animals could be seen below, and the nights en route were spent at hotels. War service was not always so enjoyable! Soon after that the war in Europe ended and there were too many inexperienced young pilots around, so Barry ended his time in uniform with the rank of Flight Lieutenant, trying to be a good education officer at an RAF station in the Suez Canal area.

At Reading University Barry graduated with a BA with 1st Class Honours in German. He represented the University at rugby and athletics, and in his final year he was elected President of Wantage Hall, his student hall of residence. In athletics he won events at the County Championships. (Berkshire, he pointed out, is a very minor County!)

Barry spent the whole of his business career working in a travel office which specialised-in-organising-trips abroad-for-school-parties. This job involved– visits to most of the countries in Europe and responsibility for the production of the firm’s tours brochures.

Barry’s main hobby was athletics administration. After serving as Honorary Secretary of a local athletics club, he helped to start, and then activate, a specialist club for discus throwers. He was then selected to become Honorary Secretary of the Amateur Athletic Association, the oldest national governing body for athletics in the world. He occupied this post for 17 years, during which time he also acted as an England team official at several Commonwealth Games. He was able to put his experience in brochure production to good use by supervising, for over 25 years, the publication of instructional books written by the national athletics coaches. In 1982 he was appointed OBE for “services to athletics” presented by the Queen.

Barry also took part in local activities. Soon after joining the Mitre Club (a lunch club for retired businessmen) he was enlisted as its Honorary Secretary. He served in this capacity for 16 years and was twice elected as Club President.

Barry died on 30th September 2018 at the age of 94.

Taken from Barry’s Eulogy, supplied by James Nelhams