Fred Wilde and John Wilde

Fred Wilde and John Wilde, Father and Son

Fred was the maternal uncle of parishioner Barbara Kilshaw’s father and John his cousin. As a young man, John was much admired and looked up to by Barbara’s father. Both Fred and John were killed in World War 1 and for many years it was believed both had died in France although there were no details of their deaths known. With the help of parishioners Mike Lawrence and John Pilling their stories became much clearer.

Fred was a butcher by trade and in his late 30’s he must have volunteered in the early months of the war as he is mentioned as serving as an acting corporal with the guns in France in 1914. As younger men were trained in warfare he must have been returned to England, as next he is listed as being in the Royal Army Service Corps, presumably having returned to being a butcher supplying provisions/food for the troops. In December 1916 he was found to be in hospital in Ipswich with a septic hand and arm, no doubt the product of an injury from working as a butcher in a time when there were no antibiotics. He dies four weeks later on 5th January 1917 and is buried in Denton cemetery in the family grave.

Meanwhile, John enlisted and was posted to the Ardwick pals Manchester Regiment 2/8 Battalion although his home was in Hyde. It is believed this regiment was established for men below the minimum height requirement for serving men. Photographs of him show a small light-weight young man. The Ardwick Pals seemed to have been used to repair and maintain the trenches and their environs rather than for fighting.

A War Diary notes that on 9th January 1918, during maintenance work, a shall landed on a group when two men were killed. John was one of those men. He was 21 years and 2 months old. He died one year after his father and is buried in a small cemetery in the grounds of a chateau at Bethune, Flanders France.

It must have been a great tragedy for the family although Fred’s sister, Barbara’s paternal grandmother, never mentioned it during her long life, nor did her father who was 12/13 at the time. Barbara has John’s gold signet ring, a 21st birthday present perhaps; a photograph of him; a photograph of his roughly hewn grave at the time of the burial; and a silk bookmark commemorating his death.

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