Ted Willis, Baron Willis

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Ted Willis, Baron Willis
Edward Henry Willis

13 January 1914
Tottenham, England
Died22 December 1992 (aged 78)
Chislehurst, Kent, England
Resting place Tottenham Cemetery
Spouse(s)Audrey Hale

Edward Henry Willis, Baron Willis (13 January 1914 – 22 December 1992) was a British playwright, novelist and screenwriter who was also politically active in support of the Labour Party. [1] [2] In 1941 he became the Secretary General of the Young Communist League, the youth branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain. [3]


Early life and War service

Born in Tottenham, Middlesex, in Patrick Dickinson's book Could Do Better, Willis described when he was leaving school at the age of fourteen: "I had a two-second 'career interview' with my Headmaster. He asked me what I wished to do for the future and I told him that I intended to become a writer. His response was a cackle followed by the remark: 'You will never make a writer in a hundred years. You haven't got the imagination for it or the intelligence. Go away and learn a good trade.'"

Willis was elected Chairman of the Labour League of Youth as the candidate of the left in 1937. He was also drama critic for the Daily Worker . [4]

Willis enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1939, subsequently serving in the Army Kinematograph Service. [5] [6] He often spoke at meetings during the Second World War in favour of opening a second front, in order to help the Red Army, which was bearing the brunt of the Nazi onslaught.

Writing career

His passion for drama first manifested in plays he wrote for the Unity Theatre, based in a former chapel near St Pancras, during the war. He was best known for writing the television series Dixon of Dock Green , based on the stories of Gordon Snashall, a local Chislehurst policeman with whom he was great friends; the series ran for more than twenty years. He was Chairman of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain from 1958 to 1964. Willis created several British television series such as Virgin of the Secret Service , Hunter's Walk, The Adventures of Black Beauty , Copper's End, Sergeant Cork and Mrs Thursday .

He was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific writer for television; he also wrote 34 stage plays and a number of feature films. [5]

Honours and awards

Announced on 23 December 1963 he was awarded a life peerage, [7] which was created on 21 January 1964 with the title Baron Willis, of Chislehurst in the County of Kent, [8] on a Labour Party nomination. [9]

Willis was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the club at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, in London's Shepherd's Bush.

Coat of arms of Ted Willis, Baron Willis
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
Willis Escutcheon.png
Coronet of a Baron
In front of a Weeping Willow Tree a Well Head proper
Or a Saltire Gules on a Chief Vert three Fountains
On either side a Willet (Common Snipe) proper supporting with the beak a Quill Or
Will well [10]

Personal life

He married the actress Audrey Hale in 1944 and they had a son and a daughter. [6] He died of a heart attack at his home in Chislehurst, Kent in December 1992 aged 78, [5] and was buried at Tottenham Cemetery. [11]


Selected plays


Selected TV

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  1. Pattullo, Polly (23 December 1992). "Obituary:Ted Willis". The Guardian . Manchester.
  2. Sutton, Shaun (23 December 1992). "Obituary: Ted Willis". The Guardian . Manchester.
  3. Landin, Conrad (28 March 2021). "The Writers' Action Group Is a Model for Today's Fight for the Arts". Tribune.
  4. Obituary, The Independent
  5. 1 2 3 Roberts, Alison (23 December 1992). "Creator of Dixon dies aged 78". The Times . London.
  6. 1 2 "Lord Willis: Obituary". The Times . London. 23 December 1992.
  7. "No. 43190". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 December 1963. p. 10533.
  8. "No. 43225". The London Gazette . 21 January 1964. p. 571.
  9. "WILLIS, Ted". British Film Institute . Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  10. Cracroft's Peerage
  11. "Ted Willis, Baron Willis". Find a Grave . Retrieved 7 May 2015.


Party political offices
Preceded by National Secretary of the Young Communist League
1941 - c.1946
Succeeded by
Bill Brooks