29 June 2006

The Victoria Cross and WWI campaign medals awarded to Private Alfred Wilkinson of the Manchester Regiment, late Royal Scots Greys and Seaforth Highlanders, was sold at auction by Dix Noonan Webb on Thursday, 29th June 2006, for a hammer price of £110,000. The VC group was purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Private Alfred Wilkinson,
1 / 5th Bn, The Manchester Regiment

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

After the outbreak of the First World War Alfred Wilkinson enlisted into the 2 / 5th Bn, The Manchester Regiment, at Atherton, in December 1914. Whilst still in training he was transferred, on the 27th January 1916, to the 18th Battalion and finally went overseas with this battalion on the 29th July 1916, being part of a draft of replacements for losses in the opening days of the Somme battle.

At some point Wilkinson was transferred to the 1 / 5th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, probably in early 1918 when the 18th Battalion was disbanded, but his service papers do not disclose when this took place. However, Alfred Wilkinson clearly excelled himself serving with his new battalion on the 20th October 1918, where he was to earn his Victoria Cross, eventually returning home to a hero's welcome at Leigh, Lancashire, in February 1919.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 9 January 1919 ], Marou, France, 20 October 1918, Private Alfred Robert Wilkinson, 1 / 5th Bn, The Manchester Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on 20th October 1918, during the attack on Marou, when four runners in succession having been killed in an endeavour to deliver a message to the supporting company, Private Wilkinson volunteered for the duty. He succeeded in delivering the message, though the journey involved exposure to extremely heavy machine-gun and shell fire for 600 yards.

He showed magnificent courage and complete indifference to danger, thinking only of the needs of his company and entirely disregarding any consideration for personal safety. Throughout the remainder of the day Private Wilkinson continued to do splendid work

Alfred Wilkinson was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 22nd February 1919.

After Alfred Wilkinson was discharged from the Army with the rank of Lance Corporal he was employed by the Leigh Operating Spinner's Association, which body was subjected to adverse publicity when it was revealed Wilkinson's pay had been docked for the time he had taken off to attend 1929 VC Reunion Dinner in the House of Lords - he was duly reimbursed.

The renewal of hostilities in 1939 saw Wilkinson join the Home Guard and being appointed a Special Constable. At the time he was employed in the surveyor's laboratory as a tester at Bickershaw Colliery, but died as a result of gas poisoning at the colliery on 18th October 1940. At the subsequent inquest it was revealed that a sparrow had become wedged in a ventilation pipe thereby causing Wilkinson's death from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was buried with full military honours in Leigh Borough Cemetery.


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Iain Stewart, 29 June 2006