by Yoland


Ruyton`s VC by proxy


With the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World war, family and local historians are looking at our own connections to those who joined up to serve their country.

 A snippet in the Shropshire Family History Journal set me on the path to research Ruyton`s VC by proxy in that terrible war.

In 1860 Rev. Frederick Paget Wilkinson and his wife, Jane Ellen Orde and their two children moved to Ruyton XI Towns to take the living of St. John the Baptist Church.   On 30th May 1862 their third child Charles Ernest Orde Wilkinson, was born at the Vicarage, They went on to have another 6 boys and lastly, a girl. 

 After studying at the Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, Charles obtained a post as Land Agent to the Nizam of Hydrabad, India.  On 17th December 1889 Charles married Edith Mary Lawder in Madras.  They had two sons in India, before returning to Britain where Charles took the post of Land Agent at Dudmaston House, Quatt, near Bridgnorth.  Thomas Lawder Orde was born on 29th June 1894 and was followed by a daughter 3 years later.

After a spell in Somerset and then Ireland, in 1913 the family, now with  6 children, moved to Comex in British Columbia, Canada.  It is only at this stage that we really get to know detailed information about Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson.

Thomas joined up on 23rd September 1914, aged 20 years and 3 months, just two months after war was declared.  Although he puts his previous experience as 4 years in the Officer`s Training Corps, he signed on as a private in the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.

His application form says his next of kin is Wilkinson, C.E. but does not state his relationship.   His address as Lazo Post Office, Comax, BC.

His country of birth was Bridgnorth, Salop, England, he was single, Church of England and his trade or calling was surveyor.  Thomas was 5ft 11 inches, chest measurement 36 inches (expansion 3 inches), he had brown hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes and 4 vaccination marks on his left arm – these would have been an important distinguishing mark which could be used to identify a body (assuming the arm was still there).

There are some intriguing anomalies here – After 4 years in the OTC why did Thomas not apply to be an officer?  Why has he left out O. for Orde in his father`s name?  Why does he not say he is his father and why does he give his address as a post office?   One has to wonder if he joined up against his father`s wishes.

Promotions or appointments dated 4/11/15 offers a further question:-

1. “The present whereabouts of this man is unknown, 16th Battn says he did not proceed overseas with the Battn.  Hdglo (?) Canadians have no word for him being struck off strength”. 

 Perhaps knowing what` hdglo` stands for might help!

 2. “Granted a commission in the Imperial Army Rank.  Temporary 2nd Lieutenant Dec 3 1914 and posted to 7th Battn. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  After the (Canadian) regiment arrived in England he transferred as a temporary Lieutenant to the 7th Battn. of the Loyal North Lancs Regiment as a Gunnery Officer.

The 7th Battalian landed at Boulogne on 17th July 1915 so Thomas would have been in the thick of the Somme Offensive which lasted from 1st July 1916 to 18th November for the gain of 6km from the enemy.  Sadly, Thomas Wilkinson did not make it to the end of the battle for he fell on 26th September.

The citation for Thomas Lawder Orde`s Wilkinson Victoria Cross 

Citation:  an extract from “The London gazette dated September 26 1916.

For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack, when a party of another unit was retiring without their machine-gun, Lieut. Wilkinson rushed forward, and, with two of his men, got the gun into action, and held up the enemy till they were relieved. Later, when the advance was checked during a bombing attack, he forced his way forward and found four or five men of different units stopped by a solid block of earth, over which the enemy was throwing bombs. With great pluck and promptness he mounted a machine-gun on the top of the parapet and dispersed the enemy bombers. Subsequently he made two most gallant attempts to bring in a wounded man, but at the second attempt he was shot through the heart just before reaching the man. Throughout the day he set a magnificent example of courage and self-sacrifice.

Honours and Awards:  Victoria Cross

His body was never recovered intact.  Wilkinson is commemorated on the British Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval on the Somme.  His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London.

 Thomas` grandfather, Rev. Frederick Paget Wilkinson served St. John the Baptist Church and the community of Ruyton XI Towns for 32 years, until his death on 29th October 1892, two years before his heroic grandson`s birth.


 Thomas Wilkinson Thomas Wilkinson 
 Rev Wilkinson
 Thomas, probably taken when he joined up  The painting, unknown artist, from the The British Empire magazine, part 42  The only known picture of Rev. Wilkinson

Back to History main page