Courtney Willey’s Medals Presented To The Museum

January, 2016

On 12 January, two of Dr Courtney Willey’s three surviving children visited the Museum to present their father’s medals to us on long-term loan.

On 16 August 1940, Flight Lieutenant Willey was the medical officer on duty when RAF Tangmere was attacked by Stuka dive bombers.  Thirteen people were killed during the attack and twenty others injured.  For his gallant conduct in attending to the injured even as the bombs were falling, Courtney Willey was awarded the Military Cross.

Willey remained at Tangmere into the autumn of 1940 and then served at a number of Fighter Command stations including Croydon, Gravesend and Biggin Hill.  In 1941, he was posted to Singapore; not long after, the British garrison fell to the Japanese and he spent the rest of the war as a captive in Malaya and Burma, doing his best to look after the health of his fellow prisoners — up to 1,200 at any one time — with very few surgical instruments and practically no drugs.

On the day of his return to England in January 1946, it was announced that Flight Lieutenant Courtney Willey had been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services during the operations in the Far East before his capture.  It was also announced that he had been Mentioned in Despatches in recognition of services rendered whilst a prisoner of war in Japanese hands.

From 1951, Dr Willey and his growing family settled in West Cumbria where he was a consultant physician.  He died in December 2004, aged 90.

Main photo: Courtney Willey’s daughter, Judy and son, Peter (centre) presenting their father’s medals to the Museum’s Archivist, Dr Reginald Byron.
Bottom left: Courtney Willey’s medals.
Bottom right: A post-war portrait of Dr Courtney Willey MBE, MC.

Talks by Tangmere

The Museum is pleased to be able to offer speakers to interested groups or societies on a range of subjects connected with the history of operations at RAF Tangmere and other military aviation subjects.

The presentations are usually given as an audio/visual presentation using the Museum's equipment. Our presentations can be tailored to suit audiences ranging from specialist societies to community based groups and range in length from 40 to 90 minutes depending on the subject matter.

Further details of the full range of presentations and the availability of speakers can be obtained by calling the museum on 01243 790090, by emailing your interest to or by letter marked for the attention of the Director.