Wilson, Edwin Thomas. Died 23rd Mar 1918

Edwin Thomas WILSON’s birth was registered in Rugby in Q3, 1894 and he was baptised on 29 July 1894 at Bilton, Warwickshire, England, when his family were living in Victoria Street, New Bilton.

He was the eighth child of Ellis Wilson [b.c.1851 in Hillmorton – an upholsterer] and Sarah Jane, née Rotton, Wilson, [b.c.1860 in Birmingham], whose marriage was registered in Birmingham in Q4, 1876.

The three eldest children had been born in West Bromwich in about 1877, 1879 and 1883, and then the next two in Tipton in 1884 and 1886. Before 1887 when their next child was born, they had moved to Rugby, and for the 1891 census they were living at 11 Bridget Street, Rugby.

By 1901 the family had moved to live at 103 Victoria Street, Rugby, where Edwin’s father, Ellis was an ‘upholsterer and general dealer’. His father’s death was registered in Rugby in Q2, 1909 – he was 58.

By 1911, the family had moved again and was living at 65 Campbell Street, New Bilton, Rugby.   Edwin was a ‘Winder (Apprentice)’ presumably at (BTH) in Rugby as he was subsequently employed just before the war in the BTH Winding Department.

There are very few on-line records of Edwin’s military career and he changed Regiments as his career progressed. If a more detailed history is required his file is available at the National Archives.[1]

It seems that he enlisted early from BTH, and was probably one of the three ‘Wilsons’ who are listed in the Rugby Advertiser on 5 and 26 September 1914.

B.T.H. Company to the Rescue. – From the Works. This is an additional list of men who have left to join the Colours from August 27th up to and including September 2nd: … Wilson … Wilson[2]

Recruiting at Rugby slows – Latest B.T.H. Recruits. – Since our last list of recruits from the B.T.H Works was compiled the following have enlisted: Works: …, Wilson, …[3]

Edwin’s Medal Card shows that he was initially a private No.21111 in the ‘Hussars of Line’, and then an Acting Corporal, No.G3/10243 in the East Surrey Regiment. It seems that this was for a fairly short time, as he was chosen for a commission, and two identical notices appeared in the Local War Notes in the Rugby Advertiser on 23 October 1915 and 22 July 1916.

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R.[4]

Mr B Whitbread, only son of Mr Charles Whitbread, and Mr Eddy Wilson, youngest son of Mrs E Wilson, have been gazetted to commissions in the 12th Reserve R.W.R..[5]

The first notice agrees broadly with his Medal Card which noted that he was appointed to a Temporary Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 20 October 1915; the second may have appeared when the two new officers went overseas in 1916. Indeed 2nd Lt. Basil Whitbread’s Medal Card does have a date when he went to France – 4 March 1916. However it seems that he was serving with a different Battalion, the 14th, when he was killed in action on 22 July 1916, during the battle of the Somme.

The 12th (Reserve) Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment was formed in Parkhurst (Isle of Wight) in October 1914 as a Service battalion, part of K4, and in November 1914, came under command of 97th Brigade, original 32nd Division. However, on 10 April 1915 it became a Reserve battalion and in September 1916, it absorbed into the Training Reserve Battalions in 8th Reserve Brigade.[6]

At some date Edwin transferred from the 12th Reserve Battalion into the 10th Battalion – quite possibly when he went to France.

The 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was raised at Warwick as part of the second of Kitchener’s new armies. The Battalion was assigned to the 57th Brigade in the 19th Division training on Salisbury Plain.   In December 1914 the Battalion was in billets for the winter and in March 1915 concentrated with its Division around Tidworth. Whilst some records suggest that the Battalion embarked for France and Flanders on 17 May 1915, other records have the division landed in France on 17 July 1915.   During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battalion was in the operational area between 1 July and 7 August and between 7 October and until the end of that battle on 18 November 1916.

In early May 1917, the Local War Notes reported –

Second-Lieut E Wilson, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, son of Mrs Wilson, of Bridget Street, is in hospital at Rouen suffering from a broken leg.[7]

This was at about the time of the Battle of Arras but of course may have been due to a fall rather than enemy action!

The history of 19th (Western) Division[8] shows that it was involved in 1917 in the following actions:

The Battle of Messines [7-14 June 1917]
The Third Battles of Ypres [from July 1917]
– The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge
– The Battle of Polygon Wood
– The Battle of Broodseinde
– The Battle of Poelcapelle
– First Battle of Passchendaele
– The Second Battle of Passchendaele

The following year, on 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive, Operation Michael, against the British Fifth Army, and the right wing of the British Third Army. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The formation for the British order of battle for that period, which was also known as the Battle of St Quentin (21-23 March 1918), included the 10th Warwickshires which were near St. Quentin with the 19th (Western) Division and the 57th Brigade in the Third Army (under Byng). The Battalion was in action east of Beaumetz facing Doignies.

The Battalion Diary[9] devotes several pages to the actions from the opening of the German assault on 21 March, until Edwin’s death on 23 March 1918.   some extracts are given below.

21.3.18 – 5am – The Battn. was in rest camp in BARASTRE when the alarm was given by intense artillery fire; orders were given to stand to arms and extra S.A.A., bombs, rifle grenades, rations etc were issued; the Battn was ready to move by 5-45.am. Breakfasts were then served.

 11.50am – Orders to move to assembly positions were received … The following officers were present … B Coy: A/Capt. H. A. Hewett, in Command. 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson … …

3.20am – The Battn. was ordered to move into position for a Brigade counter-attack on DOIGNIES; for this Battn. was in Brigade Reserve …

6.40pm – The remainder of the Brigade … launched counter-attack.

7.45pm – The line dug roughly followed the 120 contour …

22.3.18 – 8.50am – Ground close in front and behind line held by battalion was heavily shelled.

1.15pm – Shelling as at 9am … road by Bn. Hd. Qrs. was heavily shelled.

2.35pm – Bn. observers … reported that enemy were attacking …

23.3.18 – 2am – Orders received … our left must swing forward and establish two posts, … to block the S. Eastern exits from BRAUMETZ; the two left platoons of B Coy. were ordered to do this. … the Battn. was to hold its position to the last, and was not to reinforce the troops in the 3rd system or to counter-attack should the enemy succeed in breaking into the 3rd. system.

      7.30am – Batts. observers reported enemy massing W of DOIGNIES.

      8(?)am – An artillery officer reported … shortly coming into action … About 1½ hours later this officer again reported … that the guns were withdrawing.; the O.C. 10/RWarR protested … the artillery assistance was required and that the battalions had no intention of evacuating their positions. Apparently these guns fired very little if at all.

9.20am – D. Coy reported enemy cavalry on high ground …

9.25am – Battery … withdrew.

9.55am – 800 – 950 Germans debouched from S.E. of BESIMETZ. …

10.50am – … C Coy reported situation desperate on our left flank owing to withdrawal of all troops.

12.30am – VELU WOOD was occupied by the enemy.

12.30pm-1.30pm – Battn. was driven back to the road running E & W through J.26. where another stand was made…

3pm – The Battn. and machine gunners were ordered … to withdraw to Embankment … and then round the E & S sides of BERTINCOURT. … subsequently orders were received … to march to BAUCOURT, which was reached about 7pm.

Casualties were:- OFFICERS KILLED: 2nd Lt R H Burningham and 2nd. Lt. E. T. Wilson, 23-318 …Officers wounded – 9; Wounded and Missing – 2; Missing believed prisoner – 1. Other Ranks: killed – 33; Wounded – 191; Missing – 83.

Edwin, as noted, was killed in action on the third day of the battle on 23 March 1918, aged 23. Because of the intensity of the battle, with the Germans moving forward in strength, and in the confusion of the retreat and rearguard action, the bodies of many of those killed were never found or identified.

Edwin Thomas Wilson is remembered on Bay 3 of the Arras Memorial which is located at the entrance to the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery in France. The memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period … [and in Edwin’s case, sadly was] the German attack in the spring of 1918.

Edwin’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and on the BTH List of ‘Men who Served’, and the list of ‘Men who Gave their Lives’ as inscribed on the BTH War Memorial.

After Edwin’s death, on 24 March 1918 the 10th Battalion RWarR was again manning a line somewhat further to the rear. The Battalion was involved in the Battle of Bapaume, the Battle of Messines, the Battle of Bailleul, the First Battle of Kemmel Ridge, the Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of the Selle, the Battle of the Sambre and the passage of the Grand Honelle. During these the allies finally held the German advance which had badly weakened German numbers and lost them many of their more experienced troops. The German advance had also overextended their supply lines, and from August 1918 the Allies were able to regroup and fight back. The 10th Battalion ended the war on 11 November 1918, in the same formations, just west of Bavay, France.

In 1922, his mother, Mrs. S J Wilson was recorded on his Medal Card as living at 41 Bridget Street, Rugby.



– – – – – –


This article on Edwin Thomas WILSON was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, January 2018.

[1]       2nd Lieutenant Edwin Thomas WILSON, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, TNA file ref: WO 339/45499.

[2]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/.

[3]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/26th-sep-1914-recruiting-at-rugby-slows/.

[4]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/23rd-oct-1915-local-territorials-do-good-work/.

[5]         https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/whitbread-basil-died-22nd-jul-1916/.

[6]         http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/royal-warwickshire-regiment/.

[7]       12th May 1917. Rugby Advertiser, 13 May 1917, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/12th-may-1917-food-economy-campaign/.

[8]       Information from ‘The Long Long Trail’.

[9]       War Diary, TNA Ref: Piece 2085/3: 10 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1915 Jul – 1919 Mar), pp.506-513 of 517. Also available on Ancestry.co.uk.

1 thought on “Wilson, Edwin Thomas. Died 23rd Mar 1918

  1. Pingback: Wilson, Horace Victor. Died 19th Sep 1918 | Rugby Remembers

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