Friday, 1 May 2015

Westwell, Wilkinson - Private (17014)

(No soldier photo available)
2nd Battalion
The King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) 
Died: 8th May 1915
Age 19

Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

Wilkinson Westwell was born in May 1895 in Rising Bridge. He was the son of Wilkinson and Susannah Westwell of Industrial Terrace, Rising Bridge and was baptised at St. John’s Church, Stonefold on 7 June 1895. In 1901, Wilkinson was living at 6, Whalley Road, Shuttleworth with his parents, brothers Thomas, William, Albert, Harry, John and James and sisters, Elizabeth, Clara and Mary. In 1915 the family were living at 658 Blackburn Road, Rising Bridge. He was killed in action at the Battle of Frezenberg in Belgium on 8 May 1915. He was aged 19. It is likely that Wilkinson was a friend of Daniel Knowles as he lived next door but one to the Knowles Family and Daniel’s regimental number is 17019, which is very close to Wilkinson's, so they would have enlisted together. It is particularly tragic that they were both killed on the same day.

"On the night of 7 May two men of the Battalion crept out of their trench in search of a gate which they had seen in the daytime and had thought it would be useful in shoring up their trench. In the darkness they overshot their mark and reached a little wood where they heard the sound of German voices.
They reported this on their return although there was no indication that the Germans had massed nearby no less than three Corps and their artillery to try and obliterate the British 28th Division of which the 2nd King's own were a part.
At 5.30 am a tornado of high explosive shells was let loose on the British front. By 8.30 am most of the trench parapets were flattened and the trenches destroyed. The Regimental History of the German 242nd Reserve Regiment stated, "The effects of the heavy artillery was devastating, one shell crater ran into another only a few desperate survivors defended themselves obstinately ".
Nevertheless, when the German infantry attacked at 8.30am (the brunt of the onslaught falling on the King's Own) they were driven off. Half an hour later another German attack failed but by this time most of the King's Own in the front line were killed or wounded. The Germans then fired another heavy barrage under cover of which they reinforced the troops in their front line and another attack at 10.00 am succeeded.
Heavy machine gun and rifle fire opened against the King's Own positions from both flanks and there was an imminent danger of being cut off. Orders for the evacuation of the front line back to the support trenches reached all the British troops though the King's own held out until the Germans were creeping round their rear. As they rose from their trenches to withdraw, concentrated fire came down upon them and many were killed before they had gone a few yards.
Only one officer and 40 men survived to reach the reserve trenches at Potijze. The losses to the Battalion were appalling. Eleven hundred strong at the beginning of the day, they could muster only 67 at the end. After those who had become detached during the fighting returned the casualties were 15 officers and 893 men. From – Bill Turner’s Book.

Wilkinson Westwell’s body was never found. His name, therefore, is listed on Menin Gate Memorial to the missing at Ypres, Belgium.