P13168 Private William Wilkes

P13168 Private William Wilkes,

8th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, Royal Flying Corps and R.A.F
Private William Wilkes

P13168 Private William Wilkes

William Wilkes was born in 1886 and at the time of his marriage on 26th September 1910, to Lillian, he was living at 14, Short Street off Long Street, Walsall in the Parish of St Paul's.  They had four children Henry born 15th October 1910, (a close run thing), William, born 5th September 1912, Alec, born 16th February 1915 and Florence born about 1920.  His occupation was given as bridge erecting.

On enlistment to the South Staffs his height was 5 feet 5 inches, his hair, light brown, eyes brown with a sallow complexion, his chest measured 33 inches. His date of enlistment was 3rd September 1914.  After training he entered France to join the British Expeditionary Force on 14th July 1915, thus qualifying him for his 1914/15 Star, that is named to 13168 Pte. W. Wilkes, S. Staff. R.

On his records from that point his first mention is gunshot wounds to left wrist, Etaples, 18th November 1915.  His next mention was not so honourable it was to forfeit 6 days pay for absence from the 3rd March 1916 to 8th March 1916.  On the 3rd May 1916 he was tried by District Court Marshall and sentenced to undergo detention for 56 days, this for "When on Active Service absenting himself without leave".  He also forfeited 8 days pay from 25th April 1916 to 2nd May 1916 whilst in detention in the Guardroom awaiting trial.

On 6th February he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as 61929 2 AM W. Wilkes, with the trade classification of an Aerial Gunner.  He joined 15 Squadron in France and 1st August 1917 he was promoted to 1 AM.

On 14th December a signal was received by 15 Sqn. RFC asking for recommendations for the Belgian Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) a Belgian gallantry award to be made.  Names were to be submitted of 1 Officer and 3 Other Ranks and William Wilkes was fortunate to have his name put forward.  The recommendation reads as follows:

No. 61929 1/AM WILLIAM WILKES Aerial Gunner Has done over a hundred hours flying as an Aerial Gunner and has always displayed the greatest coolness and devotion to duty.

The award is dated 20th July 1917

After the war he was awarded his War and Victory medals that were named to 13168 Pte. W. Wilkes S. Staff. R.  The reason for them not being issued as RAF ones is as he was serving in the UK at No. 2 School of Observation and therefore did not return to a theatre of war before it ended, his medals were named to the highest rank he obtained in his original unit.  The Victory medal shown in the group photograph is an erased one, so if anyone knows the whereabouts of his Victory medal please let me know!  The Belgian Croix de Guerre is issued un-named.

Whilst awaiting de-mobilisation William again went absent without leave between the 22nd December and 29th December 1919.  (Obviously he nipped home to see his family over Christmas) and forfeited another 8 days pay.  This was the last time the records of William were updated, apart from the issue of his War medals, before his discharge from the RAF on 30th April 1920.

P13168 Private William Wilkes medal group A picture of the medal group of P13168 Private William Wilkes