This Day In History

  • 1691 Castleton’s Regiment (later 1st East Lancashires) embarks at Portsmouth for active service in Flanders as part of the largest English Army sent abroad since the days of Henry the Eighth.
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Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson VC

 

Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson VC

Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson VC

Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson was born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, in 1894. He was educated at Wellington College where he shone both academically and athletically, becoming both a school prefect and captain of the Gymnasium.

In 1912 the family moved to Canada where the 18-year-old Thomas worked as a surveyor on Vancouver Island and Burnaby, British Columbia. When World War I broke out he immediately joined the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, Canadian Expeditionary Force, but his service records indicate that he did not proceed overseas to Europe with them. Instead he made his own way to Britain where he joined the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. By July 1915 he was serving in France.

On the morning of July 5, 1916, during an attack on the German trenches in front of the village of La Boisselle, one gun crew, which was under heavy fire, was forced to retreat and leave its machine-gun behind. Wilkinson and two of his men dashed forward and used the abandoned weapon to hold the enemy at bay until they were relieved.

Later that day, when the British advance stalled during a bombing attack, Wilkinson pushed his way forward to find five men halted by a solid block of earth over which the Germans were lobbing grenades. Wilkinson mounted a machine-gun on top of the parapet and quickly dispersed the enemy bombers. Afterwards, during the second of two attempts to bring in a wounded man from no man’s land, he was killed instantly by a shot through the heart just before reaching the man.

His body could not be recovered. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme which records the names of over 72,000 men killed on the Somme and who have no known grave.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.