Private John WILKINSON (87009)
8th Bn. The King's (Liverpool) Regiment
Born: About June 1899, Glencoin, Westmorland
Died: 28 September 1918, (Age 19)
John Wilkinson was born at Glencoin Farm Cottages around June 1899 and baptised at St Patrick’s Church, Patterdale on the 9th July 1899. He was the illegitimate son of Margaret Rebecca Wilkinson, the daughter of John Wilkinson, a Farm Labourer, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Winder). Margaret's father John died in October 1885 when she was only five, so by 1891 grandfather, Joseph Wilkinson had taken the children into his care. He was head of the household at Glencoin Farm and a man of some standing farming around 1400 acres, so he would have not been pleased when his unmarried grand-daughter became pregnant at the age of 18. We can only guess the reasons for what happened next but when the 1901 census was taken, his mother was working as a Domestic Servant to a Farmer at Bow Hall near Dufton, whilst her son John, aged 1 year, is listed as a 'boarder' with the Chapplow family in Dockray. The Chapplows had a long association with the Wilkinsons with several members of the family having worked on the farm at Glencoin. By 1911 John was still living with the Chapplows but was now described as an ‘Adopted Child’ and was living with 82 year old John Chapplow, his daughter Margaret and grandson John Chapplow. His mother Margaret, was still unmarried, and was living in Warcop, in the home of her sister Elizabeth.
There are no documents surviving that give a detailed insight into John’s war service, although we do know, from his obituary, that he enlisted in The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) as soon as he was old enough. This would have been in June 1916 (when he was 17), as the 8th Bn. was a Territorial Force (the minimum age for the Regular Army was 18). From this, it seems likely that he enlisted into the 2/8th Bn. around June 1916 - this Battalion was held in reserve at Aldershot and Woking until they embarked for France in February 1917 (however, John would not have been allowed to serve overseas until he was 18, in June 1917).
We know from various sources that John died on the 28th September 1918 and is buried at the Sunken Road Cemetery, at Fampoux, which is about 6 miles South of Arras in France. From this location and date, we can presume that John was involved in the final offensive to break through the Hindenberg Line.
John’s very short obituary in the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald stated simply that he had “died of wounds received in action”, aged just 19. There is no mention made about his mother, or his adopted family, although it does refer to an Uncle, Joseph Wilkinson, who was living at Beckstones in Patterdale.
John had served with The King's (Liverpool Regiment) for two years and three months (of which 15 months would have been in France). His medal card1 shows that he was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
He is remembered and commemorated on:
The Patterdale War Memorial
The Matterdale War Memorial
Sunken Road Cemetery2, Boisleux-St. Marc, France
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate
There is additional sadness to this story, in that his war gratuity of over £11 was never paid/claimed and also in 1922, the Commanding Officer of the Liverpool Regiment requested permission to dispose of John’s medals, as no next of kin could be found. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Commemorative Certificate refers to John as the Son of Mrs Rebecca Wilkinson but this fact may have been added many years later, as their documents (circa 1930) regarding his gravestone, show Mr J Wilkinson of Middleton Place, Patterdale as the next of kin. Perhaps John was never told who is mother was. His service records would have shown who he regarded as next of kin but as these were lost, we will probably never know.
What became of his family?
We do not know what became of John’s mother Margaret Rebecca after 1911, or why she wasn't mentioned in the newspaper obituaries.
John's Uncle, Joseph Wilkinson, continued to live in Patterdale, firstly at Beckstones and then at Deepdale, until his death in 1943. Joseph and his wife Annie had 6 children, all John’s first cousins. One of these, also a John, died in 1968 at Moss Side in Patterdale. John’s Great Uncles, Joseph and Jonathan, lived at Middleton Place, Patterdale before their deaths in 1919 and 1946 – their grave can be seen in St Patrick's Churchyard.
1. Medal Card for Private John Wilkinson, 7th Bn. The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
The Victory Medal
To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918).
The British War Medal
To qualify for the British War Medal a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.
2. Sunken Road Cemetery, Boisleux-St. Marc, France
Boisleux-St. Marc is a village in the department of the Pas-de-Calais, about 5 miles south of Arras. Sunken Road Cemetery is down a track on the west side of the road running between this village and the adjacent village of Boisleux-au-Mont. Boisleux-St. Marc was occupied by Commonwealth troops in March 1917 following the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. The 20th Casualty Clearing Station was established at Boisleux-au-Mont in June and the 43rd in November, but both had left by the end of March 1918. From April to almost the end of August part of Boisleux-St. Marc was once again in German hands. In September, October and November, six Casualty Clearing Stations were posted at Boisleux-au-Mont for shorts periods. Sunken Road Cemetery was called at one time "Boisleux-au-Mont British Cemetery". It was begun by the hospitals in May 1917 and used until July when it began to be shelled. Four burials were made in March 1918 and it was completed the following September and October. The cemetery contains 416 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, two of them unidentified, and four German war graves. More Details
Page Editor: Norman Jackson
Page Last Reviewed: 26 Feb 2021