Ted Willis, Baron Willis

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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] He was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most prolific writer for television, and also wrote 34 stage plays and 39 feature films.[3]

Political life

Willis was elected Chairman of the Labour League of Youth as the candidate of the left in 1937. In 1941 he became Secretary General of the Young Communist League. He was a charismatic personality and an excellent public speaker. 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.


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, and he also wrote nine films. 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.

Selected plays

Honours and awards

Announced on 23 December 1963 he was awarded a life peerage,[4] which was created on 21 January 1964 with the title Baron Willis, of Chislehurst in the County of Kent,[5] on a Labour Party nomination.[6]

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.


Personal life

Born in Tottenham, Middlesex, Willis enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers in 1939, subsequently serving in the Army Kinematograph Service.[3][7] He married the actress Audrey Hale in 1944 and they had a son and a daughter.[7] He died of a heart attack at his home in Chislehurst, Kent in December 1992 aged 78,[3] and was buried at Tottenham Cemetery.[8]


  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. ^ a b c Roberts, Alison (23 December 1992). "Creator of Dixon dies aged 78". The Times. London. 
  4. ^ "No. 43190". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 December 1963. p. 10533. 
  5. ^ "No. 43225". The London Gazette. 21 January 1964. p. 571. 
  6. ^ "WILLIS, Ted". British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Lord Willis: Obituary". The Times. London. 23 December 1992. 
  8. ^ "Ted Willis, Baron Willis". Find a Grave. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 

External links

  • Ted Willis's appearance on This Is Your Life


  • Willis, Ted (1970). Whatever Happened to Tom Mix? The Story of One of My Lives. London: Cassell. ISBN 0304936758. 
  • Willis, Ted (1991). Evening All: Fifty Years Over a Hot Typewriter. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0333546865. 
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Gollan
National Secretary of the Young Communist League
1941 - c.1946
Succeeded by
Bill Brooks
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