Kenneth Hugh Willard was born 23rd July 1898 to Thomas Webb Willard and Tryphena (Renshaw) at Rugby, and was baptised at St Andrews Church, Rugby 7th August 1898. Kenneth was their second child, his elder brother, James Donald, was born at Leamington in 1897, followed by Cynthia Violet Mary born Birmingham, Colin Gerald born Wolston and Rupert Alan born Rugby and another brother, Frederick, was born in 1900 but died the same year aged 4 months.
On the 1901 census Kenneth and his brother James are with their mother at 26 Bilton Road Rugby, their father is not with them, their mother is given as Wife of Thomas Webb Willard. On the 1911 census the family are all together and are still living at 26 Bilton Road Rugby, and their father’s occupation is Architect and Surveyor to the District Council. With the family are also a Governess, Mary Elizabeth Schineider and a Servant, Florence May Smith. Kenneth attended Lawrence Sheriff School and entered Rugby School in 1912 and left there in 1914 and went into his father’s office and in September 1916 he went to R. M. C. Sandhurst. He became a 2nd Lieutenant and in May 1917 he was assigned to the York and Lancaster Regiment and went to Reading, Castle Bromwich and Shrewsbury for his training for the Royal Flying Corps as a Pilot. Kenneth went to France on 6th October 1917 and was attached to the 45th Squadron R. F. C. On 12th October he was on patrol with others and they encountered German planes. He was then reported missing 12th October 1917.
An official list, published in Germany and republished in FLIGHT 1918, of British machines in which the Germans claim fell into their hands during October 1917, lists 37 single – seater Sopwith machines, giving details of the pilots, one of which is Lieut. K.H. Willard wounded.
His parents were informed that he was missing but he had died later that day.
He is buried in Harlebeke New British Cemetery: Grave Reference XI. A. 18.
Rugby Advertiser 20th October 1917
SECOND-LIEUT K.H. WILLARD MISSING
Second Lieut Kenneth H. Willard, York and Lancaster Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps, second son of Mr. T. W. Willard 26 Bilton Road, has been officially informed reported missing as from October 12th. In a letter to Mr. Willard a fellow officer writes “He went out with six other machines on the 12th inst. to do a patrol, the leader being one of our best pilots. About 15 to 20 enemy machines were encountered, and a general mix-up ensued, in which your son was seen handling his machine and fighting in a most efficient manner. Although our machines were greatly outnumbered, they put up a great fight, but on returning to the aerodrome it was discovered that your son was missing. No one saw him go down, and it is just possible that he may have been hit in the engine, and had to descend in the enemy lines.” Lieut. Willard was educated at Rugby School and Sandhurst, and visited his parents a fortnight ago on his final leave before proceeding to the front.
Rugby Advertiser 17th November 1917
WILLARD – In proud and loving memory of KENNETH HUGH WILLARD, 2nd Lieut., York and Lancaster Regiment attached to R. F. C. Killed in action on the Western Front on October 12th 1917; second son of T. W. And Tryphena Willard Rugby aged 19.
The Midland Daily Telegraph Saturday October 20th 1917
RUGBY OFFICER MISSING
Mr T. W. Willard, Surveyor to Rugby District Council, Has been officially notified that his second son, Second Lieut. Kenneth H. Willard is missing. He visited his parents so recently a fortnight ago on his final leave before proceeding to the front. It appears he was fighting with six others when they encountered about 20 enemy machines Second Lieut. K. H. Willard was educated at Rugby School and Sandhurst.
Rugby Advertiser 15th October 1920
WILLARD – In proud and loving memory of Kenneth Hugh Willard, 2nd Lieut. York and Lancaster Regt. (attached Royal Flying Corp) killed in action on October 12th 1917. Buried in the Cemetery of Honour at Rumbeke Belgium.
Lieut Kenneth Hugh Willard’s name is recorded at Rugby School in the Memorial Chapel on the East Wall South Transept, on the Rugby Memorial Gates, in Volume VII of Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War with his photograph, also recorded in the Old Laurentians (former schoolboys of Lawrence Sheriff School) who died during the First World War.
Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War VII
Second Lieut. K. H. Willard entered School in 1912 and left 1914. For about 18 months after School he was in his father’s offices and then went to R. M. C. Sandhurst September 1916. On passing out of Sandhurst in May 1917, he was gazetted to the York and Lancaster Regiment, and then went to Reading, and afterwards Castle Bromwich and Shrewsbury for his training for the Royal Flying Corps.
He went to France on October 6th 1917 and was attached to 45th Squadron R. F. C. He was flying with a patrol Squadron of seven machines to Houthulst Forest when they met a Squadron of German machines, fifteen to twenty strong. Two of our machines, of which he was one, failed to return and it was afterwards learned he had died in the hospital at RUMBEKE on the same day, October 12th 1917, age 19.
His captain wrote “Although your son was with us a short time, he gave every proof of being an exceptionally capable and well trained Pilot, who would have given a splendid account of himself, Although our machines were greatly outnumbered, they put up a great fight, and your son was seen to be handling his machine and fighting in a most efficient manner. We all feel his loss very much.”
Lieut. Kenneth H. Willard was entitled to receive the Victory Medal and The British War Medal. His parents would have been sent The Memorial Death plaque after the war which commemorated all of the war dead.
When his mother died in 1964, and was buried in Clifton Road Cemetery Rugby, the inscription on her headstone reads “In proud and loving memory of KENNETH HUGH WILLARD 2ND Lt York & Lanc Regt R F C killed in action Oct 12th 1917 aged 19years. Buried at Rumbeke, Belgium. In loving memory of TRYPHENA WILLARD died March 20 1964 aged 89 years. In loving memory of FREDERICK DOUGLAS MARK WILLARD died August 27 1900 aged 4 months. “Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade.” In loving memory of THOMAS WEBB WILLARD died December 28 1940 aged 78 years.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM