This Day In History

  • 1775 In the early hours a small British force, including the Grenadier and Light Companies of the 47th (later 1st Loyals) and 59th (later 2nd East Lancashires), sets out from Boston, Massachusetts for Concord, some 20 miles away, to destroy a colonial munitions depot. At dawn at Lexington they are confronted by the local militia and the first shots of the American Revolution are fired. A further engagement follows at Concord where about 500 Militiamen defeat three British companies and force the British column to begin its return march to Boston. Reinforced at Lexington by a relief force including the rest of the 47th, the march is carried out under sustained fire from concealed insurgents, and the American War of Independence has begun.
  • 1854 47th Regiment (later the 1st Loyals) disembark at Scutari, opposite Constantinople, to join the 2nd Division, part of the British Army concentrating in preparation for the Crimean War. They are quartered in the huge Turkish barracks there, later to become famous as the British base hospital where Florence Nightingale effected her nursing reforms.
  • 1880 2nd Afghan War. Battle of Ahmed Kel. 59th Regiment (soon to 2nd East Lancashires) is hard-pressed on the right of the British line.  The Regiment forms square around its colours. It is the last occasion on which colours are carried by a British regiment on a victorious field. Afterwards 1,000 dead lie in front of the British line, with 600 around the 59th's position. The shell-torn colours are now displayed in the Sergeant's Mess of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.
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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.