Campaign to restore VC hero's grave

Alfred Wilkinson VC
Alfred Wilkinson VC
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A campaign to revamp the last resting place of a Victoria Cross winner has been gathering pace.

Funeral director Paul Sargent was captivated by the tale of Alfred Wilkinson, who was awarded the nation’s highest military honour for his courage during the Battle of Selle in October 1918.

His comrades in the Manchester Regiment were under heavy fire and, despite four runners having been killed on similar missions, Wilkinson managed to deliver a message requesting reinforcements.

Today he is buried, with his father, also called Alfred, in a simple plot towards the rear of Leigh Cemetery.

And it was there that Paul discovered the state of the grave and decided to launch a fund-raising drive, via the Go Fund Me website, to improve its circumstances.

Paul said: “Someone brought the story of Alfred Wilkinson to my attention because I didn’t even know we had a VC winner here in Leigh.

“The grave looked fairly overgrown and was in bit of state of disrepair, so I decided to act.”

He estimates that £750 should pay for an upgrade, but he does not intend to leave his efforts there.

Close to the plot, there is a raised flowerbed and he has been in discussions with Wigan Council over the prospect of using the location as an additional memorial to the former soldier.

He is hopeful, before the centenary of his distinction later this year, to install an information board, detailing Alfred’s life story, for any cemetery visitors.

In the official citation for his VC, it was noted: “He showed magnificent courage and complete indifference to danger, thinking only of the needs of the company and entirely disregarding any consideration for personal safety.”

But on Civvy Street, Alfred was regarded as a quiet and reserved man. Returning home, he initially worked for Leigh Spinners and married Grace Davies, having one daughter together.

His tragic death came later while working as a laboratory apprentice at Bickershaw Colliery. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a furnace room after a sparrow became lodged in a nearby flue. The streets of Leigh were thronged for his funeral.

A plaque in his memory was unveiled at Leigh Town Hall in 2005. Paul’s fundraising page can be found at https://uk.gofundme.com/alfred-robert-wilkinson-vc