One Man's Passion: The N. L. Wills Collection

Feature image
The U.S landing at Leyte Island. / H.M.A.S Australia fully engaged. / N. L. Wills

One Man's Passion: The N. L. Wills Collection


A mysterious portfolio of works from the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum collection.


Who was N. L. Wills?

Mystery surrounds these paintings and drawings as little is known about the artist, N. L. Wills, or these works. It is hoped that this exhibition will assist in locating the artists’ Estate so that they can reveal the stories behind this unique grouping of technically specific ships, planes and buildings.


Media coverage

Local media journalist, Matt Harris, covered the original story which appeared in the Gladstone Observer,  Monday 6 March 2017
Read the online version of the story here:

Gladstone Observer Journalist, Matt Harris, wrote a follow up story on the discovery of N.L. Wills' identity which appeared in the local newspaper on  Saturday 11 March 2017
Read the online version of the story here:


*RESEARCH UPDATE*  10.03.2017

Mystery originally surrounded this portfolio of works from the Gallery & Museum collection however with assistance from the community, GRAGM staff are finally able to reveal this talented artist's name is...
Norman Louis Wills.  How the N. L. Wills Collection ended up in Gladstone is still being looked into.


Short Biography for Norman Louis (Dick) Wills


Norman Louis Wills, or "Dick", was born in Elsternwick, Victoria, 31 August 1912.


He and his first wife, Ethel Marie Wills, had two sons together, Norman Charles Wills and Noel Kevin Wills.


Wills enlisted in the Australian Army (Service number: VX79621) when he was 29 years old.  He served alongside the 2nd / 3rd Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment as a Lance Bombardier during WWII. 


After his discharge, Wills suffered from Malaria and moved to Queensland to live in a warmer climate. He separated from his first wife Ethel who stayed in Victoria, and had three other marriages while living in Queensland; to Claire Smith; then to Olive Waddington; and then finally to Marjory Wills (formerly Mathie).

While in Queensland he worked as a clerk for the Cobb & Co. Bus Company and at Peters Slip as a Paymaster, travelling the city on his motor scooter. Prior to his retirement, Wills also enjoyed writing short stories which were published using the pseudonyms, “Jock” or “Coral Grove.” Often these stories were about war experiences.

Wills and Marjory moved to Wellington Point in 1981. He planted a few Coral Trees at that residence, and donated some to the Redlands City Council for footpath planting near their property.   His passion for Coral Trees (Erythrina) grew and he soon considered himself to be the "World Authority" on this plant.  He also had a large property in Rochedale where he researched, bred and grew many different kinds of them, and sent their seeds around the world.

In his spare time Wills drew, painted and documented hundreds of war scenes and donated some to the local Redlands Museum. When finished, he left a unique artist mark on them that included a distinct red, blue and white triangle symbol, representing his proud alliance with the 2nd / 3rd Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.  Above the triangle, the letters 'V' and 'X' can be found, which represented his Army Service number.  Below the triangle, a year is written, and this is the year in which he finished the artwork. Some paintings also have a 'WP number'.  'WP' stood for Wellington Point (where he painted), and the number was the amount of paintings he had completed, to date.

Wills took great interest in the accuracy of his paintings and ensured they were scaled and coloured exactly. It is believed that he donated many of his works to RSL Clubs around the country and gave away many others as gifts.  


Wills died in Mt Olivett hospital (now St Vincents) on 13 March 1991. It was his request that his ashes be scattered in Moreton Bay. This was arranged with the Navy who provided a small launch for the brief service and scattering of the ashes.



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