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Richard Wilkinson was born at 13 Mersey Street in Longridge on the 22nd November 1895 the son of Richard and Mary Ann Wilkinson (nee Russell) and he was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church of St. Wilfred in Longridge on the 20th December 1895. Richard`s parents had married ten years earlier in the March quarter of 1885 and including Richard they had ten children although one son died at the age of three, the others being; Thomas (1885), Joseph (1887-1891), Mary (1890), Joseph (1891), twins Margaret and Alice (1894), Edward (1897), Ann (1900) and Ada (1904).

The Wilkinson family lived at the same address in Mersey Street for many years, in 1901 Richard`s father was a cotton spinner but sadly he passed away at home on the 12th April 1910 aged 52 years. In 1911 and still at the same address Richard and his three elder sisters, Mary, Alice and Margaret had all gone into mill work, employed as weavers, later information states that Richard was working for Messrs. George Whittle & Company at their mill in Longridge. Fourteen year old Edward was a warehouse boy and the two youngest, Annie and Ada were both still at school.

Richard aged 17 years and 3 months old joined the 4th (Territorial) Battalion on the 27th February 1912 agreeing to serve a term of 4 years. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was 5`5” tall and had a 31” chest and was said to be in good physical condition. He passed his medical and was issued with the service number 1149. Richard was present at the Territorial Annual Camps at Kirkham in 1912 and then Denbigh in 1913. As a serving member of the Territorial Force at the outbreak of war Richard was recalled along with the other Territorials and he signed his agreement to serve abroad on the 7th August in the Public Hall in Preston becoming a member of “B” Company;
He sailed to France with the main body of the 1/4th Battalion landing in Boulogne on the 4th May 1915. Unfortunately Richard had only been in France for 6 days before he had to be admitted to a field ambulance suffering from an abscess, his treatment lasted for six days, re-joining the Battalion on the 16th May. A month later on the 15th June 1915 Richard was with the Battalion when they went into their first major action around Festubert, known as the `great bayonet charge`, casualties were high but Richard was one of the lucky ones and managed to survive, a number of other Longridge men were wounded or killed.

On the 21st September 1915 he was admitted to a field ambulance again, this time with scabies, and then on the 26th September he was sent to a convalescent company to recuperate. Unfortunately, just short of three weeks later he was re-admitted suffering from influenza, he finally re-joined the Battalion on the 21st October 1915.

In June 1916 Richard received a punishment of 7 days Field Punishment No. 1 and made to forfeit one days` pay for “being absent from leave 7.50am – 2.55pm (7 hrs 5 mins).

On the 25th July 1916 the 1/4th Battalion as part of the 164th Brigade of 55th (West Lancashire) Division was sent south to play its part in the ongoing Battle of the Somme. By the end of July the Battalion had taken up its appointed place in the line opposite the village of Guillemont. An attack was planned and was scheduled to take place on the 8th August 1916. However, on the 5th August just three days prior to the attack Richard was admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station where he was diagnosed with `septic legs`. He was transported by ambulance train to No.1 Stationary Hospital in Rouen, arriving there on the 7th August and by the 10th August he was on his way back to hospital in England via the Hospital Ship “George”. On arrival he was transported to Bristol and then admitted to the V.A. Hospital in Cheltenham. Sadly, on the 24th August 1916 Richard passed away at the hospital in Cheltenham, later information stating his death was due to `septic poisoning`.

Richard`s body was taken back to Longridge where he was laid to rest with full military honours in the cemetery at St. Wilfred`s Roman Catholic Church. The Preston Herald newspaper under the date 2nd September 1916 reporting;

“The funeral of Pte Richard Wilkinson, who died in Cheltenham Hospital of septic poisoning, took place on Monday, with military honours, at St. Wilfred`s Church. The coffin, covered with the Union Jack, was conveyed on a gun carriage from his home in Mersey Street, and along the route to the chapel, by way of Berry Lane and Preston Road, a large number of people gathered. There was a large number of wreaths, including one sent by the work people of Messrs. George Whittle & Co., where he was formerly employed. Father Holden performed the committal rites, after which three volleys were fired and the `Last Post` was sounded. The scene was most impressive. Private Wilkinson was called up at the beginning of the war, being a member of the Longridge Territorials, and went to France in May 1915. He was 20 years of age”.

Richard`s mother had the following words inscribed at the foot of her sons` headstone;


By the 1st March 1917 Richard`s mother had heard nothing from the Authorities with regard to any of her sons` personal effects so she penned a letter to the H.Q. in Preston;

Please click to enlarge

Finally in January 1918 Mary Ann took receipt of quite a large number of Richard`s personal belongings, including; 1 notebook, 1 mirror (broken), 1 tin box, cap badge, 1 ID Disc, 3 Handkerchiefs, 1 pair of socks, 1 razor strop, 1 razor, 1 table knife and a spoon, 2 Rosaries, 1 small purse, letters, photographs, 1 gold shell ring, 1 writing tablet, 1 matchbox, 1 cigarette case, 1 brass watch (broken) and a wallet containing a letter and some pieces of paper.
After the war Mary Ann Wilkinson also signed for her sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.
Richard`s name was later added to the list of men recorded on the War Memorial outside St. Wilfred`s RC Church in Longridge;

War Memorial, St. Wilfred`s RC Church, Longridge

Rank: Private
Service No: 1149
Date of Death: 23/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, B Coy, 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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