On Sundays I sometimes drive up to Lyme Hall to stroll around the extensive grounds while listening to an audio book. I thought you myself, “The next time you go there call in at Stockport Crematorium and look at the chimney where bits of a brave soldier were spent.” I did and here I am at the crematorium and also nearby at the pub named in his honour.
Wilfred was born and raised here in Stockport. His dad died when he was young and his mum remarried. He was a member of Norbury Church congregation and the local football club. On his 17th birthday he got a job with the railways but it was 1914 and World War One and dark clouds were gathering over Europe. After working as a shed cleaner he enlisted in the army as a stretcher-bearer but was soon transferred to the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers. He was soon in France and then Italy.
On Monday 28th October 1918 he was fighting in Casa Van in Italy. The battalion were suddenly held up with gunshot and machine gun fire - and more dangerous than anything - snipers bullets. Wilfred had spotted the main gun and advanced alone with his Lewis gun (a light machine gun.) Beating suicidal odds he survived splaying bullets and reached the machine-gun nest unharmed. Expecting to be shot dead at close range he stormed the machine-gun nest and got 140 enemy soldiers to surrender. Suddenly a hidden machine gun opened fire but missed Wilfred who ran at the gunner while firing his Lewis gun from his hip. He killed the machine-gun crew, and without further orders, pushed on and took over a ditch where another 163 enemy soldiers surrendered.
Within two months he was at Buckingham Palace receiving a Victoria Cross medal from the King George (taking his fiancée, Bessie.) That evening he returned home to Stockport to a public reception. After the war he returned to the railways and worked as a fireman. The next year he married Bessie and they had a son.
Aged 63 he retired from the railways after 46 years of service. Sadly he attended this same crematorium for the funeral of another Victoria Cross recipient John Christie. His wife died and in the late 1970s his health began to fail. He suffered a slight stroke and had cataracts in both eyes. He died near this grave in Stepping Hill Hospital aged 84.
I had a stroll around the Garden of Remembrance as Wilfred’s ashes were scattered there. Perhaps particles of him still exist from 1982. His ashes must have fortified a few pansies and azaleas over the last three decades. His Victoria Cross medal is owned privately and not on display in a glass cabinet in a town hall or museum. I’d been here before to see another Victoria Cross recipient called John Thomas who buried there and there link is below:-
The cemetery and crematorium is on Buxton Road and a short drive along it sits a Wetherspoon’s pub named after Wilfred. I went to have a look and do another couple of salutes under the sign bearing a photograph of his face.
Wilfred's ashes were sprinkled here...
Wilfred was cremated here...
Looking up at the crematorium chimney...