To The Men Who Served – Townspeople’s Letter of Gratitude

Men from Hastings and St. Leonards who fought in and survived the war received honourary scrolls upon their return.

I would like to share with everyone what little I know about my Granddad Albert Gordon Wilkinson and his brothers’ incredible contribution to their country during the First World War.

Albert was born on the 23rd October 1889 in Birkenhead Cheshire, 2nd eldest of 6 boys. His father was Edmund Wilkinson and his mother was Margaret Eliza Wilkinson (Nee Redhead).

In 1916, he was living at 41 Baldslow Road, Hastings, with his wife, Beatrice and daughter, Margaret who was two years old when he was enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner, regimental number 119786. Unfortunately, none of his service records appear to have survived the warehouse fire, caused during the blitz in the Second World War that destroyed around 70% of the records but, by comparing his regimental number to others in the RGA whose partial records have survived, I estimate he would have been mobilised in September 1916. Like so many others of his generation, he never really talked about his time serving in the War, so regrettably we do not have much information.

What we do know from family stories is that he served either in the Trench Mortars or on the Big Guns and he suffered a burst eardrum from an exploding shell and we know that at some point he was gassed and woke up in a hospital bed next to a Ghurkha. (More than 200,000 Gurkhas served in the British Army, suffering approximately 20,000 casualties and receiving almost 2000 gallantry awards.) I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Beatrice, his wife, living in Hastings and hearing the guns firing on the front line knowing that he was out there in the thick of it.

Thankfully he survived the war and in 1919 he received a scroll from the Townspeople of Hastings and St. Leonards, addressed individually and signed by the Mayor A.Blackman, in gratitude for the sacrifices made. The scroll was sent to about 4,000 men and was designed at the Hastings Municipal School of Art, Lithographed by Messrs.F.J.Parsons Ltd and featured the flags of the Allies, with the Hastings Arms in the centre. We are very proud to have this scroll and Albert’s British and Victory Medals still in the family.

Not only did Albert survive the War but incredibly so did all of his 5 brothers who, according to family stories, all fought in front line positions. I don’t know what the odds on all six brothers surviving would have been, but they must have been phenomenal and Edmund and Margaret Eliza must have been eternally grateful when all of their sons returned. What I do know about the brothers is as follows:

Frank Wilkinson: born 14th May 1887 living in Blackburn Lancashire in 1911
Thomas Henry Wilkinson: born 2nd Feb 1889 (AKA Harry)
Arthur Wilkinson: born 1895
Reginald Wilkinson: baptised 19th April 1896. Sergeant 7th London Rifles regimental numbers 2032 / 415313 / 350454. First served in France 17th March 1915. British and Victory Medals and 1915 Star.
Arthur Wilkinson: born 1895
Leonard Field Wilkinson: born 31st Oct 1898. Regimental number 318965 Sapper Marine Company 73 Inland Waterways and Docks, Royal Engineers. British and Victory Medals.

I have been able to establish some First World War records for two of the brothers and am still searching for the other three so if anyone has any information at all on Albert and his brothers I would be thrilled to hear from you through this website.

This story was submitted by Nick Wilkinson. If you know anything more about these scrolls or about Nick’s grandfather then contact us and we’ll pass the information on.