Private 38794 Horace Wilkinson

Killed in Action on Friday, 22nd March 1918, age 17.
Commemorated on Panel 59 and 60 of Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

9th Bn., King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. 64th Brigade of 21st Division.
Formerly 86867 Training Battalion.

Son of Alfred Wilkinson, of 206, Halfords Lane, Smethwick, Staffs.
Born: Dudley Port, Enlisted: Smethwick, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/851249/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Horace Wilkinson registered December quarter 1900 in Dudley.

1901 Census
50 Bagnall Street, Golds Hill, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Alfred Wilkinson (35, General Labourer, born West Bromwich), his wife Annie (31, born Astley, Worcs), and their 4 children: Alfred (9, born Smethwick), May (7, born West Bromwich), Bertie (6, born Smethwick), and Horace (4 months, born West Bromwich).

1911 Census
20 White Road, Smethwick, Staffs.
Alfred Wilkinson (44, Caster's Helper, born West Bromwich), his wife Annie (40, born Astley, Worcs), and their 6 surviving children of 11: William (18, General Labourer, born Smethwick), Ida (17, Wirer at Roller Skate Works, born West Bromwich), Bert (15, Plater at Roller Skate Works, born Smethwick), Horace (11, School, born Dudley Port), Lawrence (6, born Smethwick), and Roland (2, born Smethwick).

Personal Data

Horace's connection with Tipton is tenuous. 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' records Horace as born Dudley Port, but at the age of 4 months he was living 'over the border' in West Bromwich.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Horace as 19 years of age, however his birth was registered in December quarter 1900 and he was just 4 months old at the time of the 1901 Census. This means that he enlisted when he was approximately 15 years and 10 months old, and he was just 17 years and 6 months old when he was killed in action.

After Horace's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/12/4d (7 pounds, 12 shillings and 4 pence); this was paid to his father, Alfred, in April 1919. His War Gratuity was £6/0/0d (6 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in April 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Horace had enlisted in approximately October 1916.

Action resulting in his death

On 21st March 1918, over a 5-hour period beginning at 4.40am, the Germans fired over a million high-explosive and gas shells on a 50-mile front. At 9.35 am, 500,000 German soldiers advanced through a mist which reduced visibility to 25 yards in some places. This was the start of the German Spring Offensive, aimed to force a breakthrough before the American forces could become effective.

The 9th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (9/KOYLI), as part of 21st Division, were at Guyencourt, between Peronne and Cambrai and about 20 miles east to the 1916 Somme battlefields. On the 21st March, the 9/KOYLI were under a steady, but not severe, artillery bombardment. They held their positions to the east of Saulcourt facing Épehy to their north-east.

The morning of 22nd March was relatively calm in the 9/KOYLI locality, but by the afternoon artillery fire increased and German aeroplanes were active, both for reconnaissance and firing on the ground troops. At about 3.30pm, the enemy were seen to be advancing from Épehy towards the 9/KOYLI at Saulcourt, this was effectively dealt with using Lewis Guns and a local battery of artillery.

At about 5.30pm, the Germans broke through to the right of 9/KOYLI, and their speed of advance threatened encirclement. Withdrawal was ordered to a pre-planned position about 3 miles west, near Nurlu. The withdrawal was dangerous as it exposed 9/KOYLI troops to artillery and machine gun fire, and close-quarters action was seen on a number of occasions.

Later that evening, orders were received to move again, about 2 miles south towards Templeux-la-Fosse, and it was here that 9/KOYLI spent the night. Scouts were sent out, and found the enemy to be about 1000 yards away.

During this trying day, 4 officers and 70 men of 9/KOYLI were killed; this number included Tipton man Private Horace Wilkinson. Like most of the 9/KOYLI men killed that day, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

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