12 September 2006

First World War hero Alfred Wilcox has finally won recognition in his home city of Birmingham, 88 years after he won the Victoria Cross. For reasons that still remain unclear his grave was never given a headstone and his final resting place in Aston Parish Churchyard has been lost from memory.

Yesterday, thanks to an investigation to track down the "lost VC", a service of dedication was held at St Peter & St Paul Church where Corporal Wilcox, of the 2nd / 4th Bn, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, was buried in 1954. The new memorial stone unveilled on Tuesday, 12th September 2006, simply reads "For Valour. Near this site lies Alfred Wilcox 1884-1954, awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery in France, 12 Sept 1918."

Those relatives attending the ceremony included Alfred Wilcox's son Vincent Nicholls, granddaughter Elaine Read and nephew John Wilcox. Elaine Read and General Sir Edward Jones, chairman of the Regimental Committee of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry both laid a wreath on the base of the new headstone. The standard bearers in attendance were the National Service Veterans Association, the Birmingham and District Royal Artillery Association, South Staffrodshire County Royal British Legion, and the Federation of Ex-Servicemen.

Alfred Wilcox enlisted in the 1st Royal Warwicks, a Volunteer Battalion, in 1902, where after serving for four years his job took him to Liverpool where he continued serving as a Territorial for a further three years. He retired with the rank of Corporal in 1909. On 25 March 1915 he joined the Royal Bucks Hussars, but was dismounted shortly afterwards, and was attached to the 2 / 4th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, going to France in December 1917

Lance Corporal Alfred Wilcox was a member of the 2 / 4th Bn, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry which arrived at Laventie, south-west of Armentieres on 11th September 1918. The enemy was holding the line called the Picantin - Junction Post and the Battalion was ordered forward to attempt to hold an outpost line that was to the north-east of the town. Headquarters was established in a former dressing station in Laventie, a house of pretentious size, which had not been destroyed by enemy artillery.

The Battalion was ordered to attack Junction Post the following day, the 12th September. The post was a grass-bound breastwork, where the enemy offered strong resistance, the attack being carried out in driving rain. It was here that Alfred Wilcox gained the Victoria Cross and the citation sums up perfectly the heroic action that took place.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 15 November 1918 ], Near Laventie, France, 12 September 1918, 285242 Private ( Lance Corporal ) 2nd / 4th The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in attack ( near Laventie, France ) when his company was held up by heavy and persistent machine-gun fire at close range. On his own initiative, with four men he rushed ahead to the nearest enemy gun, bombed it, killed the gunner, and put the gun out of action. Being then attacked by an enemy bombing party, Cpl. Wilcox picked up enemy bombs and led his party against the next gun, finally capturing and destroying it. Although left with only one man, he continued bombing and captured a third gun. He again bombed up the trench, captured a fourth gun, and then rejoined his platoon. Cpl. Wilcox displayed in this series of successful individual enterprises exceptional valour, judgment, and initiative.

Alfred Wilcox was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 26th November 1919.

After discharge from the Army, Alfred Wilcox attended many reunions of Victoria Cross holders, including the 1920 Afternoon Garden Party and the 1929 VC Reunion Dinner in the House of Lords. Wilcox was very interested in sport and in particular was a keen cyclist. He was also a good swimmer and long-distance walker, being a member of Birchfield Harriers. Alfred Wilcox died at his home, 31 Arthur Street, Small Heath, Birmingham, on the 30th March 1954 and was buried in an unmarked grave in St Peter & St Paul Churchyard, Aston.

Medal entitlement of Corporal Alfred Wilcox - 2 / 4th Bn, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )


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Iain Stewart, 25 September 2006