Personal info

  • Name: Wilfrid EDWARDS
  • D.O.B: 16th February, 1893
  • D.O.A: 16th August, 1917
  • D.O.D: 2nd January, 1972
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Private, 7th Battalion The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 61st Brigade, 20th Division
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Langemark, Belgium 16 August 1917

16 August 1917

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The First World War 1917 

The British had achieved less than planned in the initial phase of the Third Battle of Ypres. On 16 August 1917, in order to continue their push east towards Passchendaele, General H Gough ordered a further assault, the Battle of Langemark, along a line running from Langemark in the north, where the French First Army also took part in the action, to the Ypres-Menin road, east of Hooge, in the south. In the north, the British line ran along the Steenbeek. 1st Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers were detailed to push back the Germans from the Steenbeek to the Broembeek at Wijdendrift, north of the Ypres-Staden railway, north-west of Langemark. As elsewhere on the line, the British were confronted by machine-gun fire from a series of enemy pillboxes. Company Quartermaster Sergeant W H Grimbaldeston capured one of these almost single-handedly, while Company Sergeant Major J K Skinner captured a further three around Montmirail Farm. Their actions contributed to the Battalion reaching its objective. 20th Division had, meanwhile, to take Langemark itself. The village, which was just south of the Ypres-Staden railway, was in ruins but the position was defended by a series of concrete blockhouses. The British soon found themselves under fire from these strongpoints and taking heavy casualties. The blockhouse at Reitres Farm, west of Langemark and just south of the Ypres-Staden Railway, was taken single-handedly by Private W Edwards, 7th Battalion The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and another south-east of the village on the initiative of Sergeant E Cooper, 12th Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Cooper’s VC Citation may be incorrect in asserting that he fired through the slit of the blockhouse. He later claimed that he had merely shouted the order to surrender from outside. Langemark was captured. To the south, however, the British were less successful. The 16th and 36th Divisions were detailed to advance across the Gheluvelt plateau between St Julien and Frezenberg, north of the Ypres-Roulers railway. Here too they met heavy German machine-gun fire from entrenched positions and were soon driven back by an enemy counter-attack and suffered many casualties.

Citation

 For most conspicuous bravery when under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a strong concrete fort. Having lost all his company officers, without hesitation he dashed forward at great personal risk, bombed through the loopholes, surmounted the fort, and waved to his company to advance. By his splendid example he saved a most critical situation at a time when the whole battalion was held up and a leader urgently needed. Three officers and thirty other ranks were taken prisoner by him in the fort. Later, Pte. Edwards did most valuable work as a runner, and he eventually guided most of the battalion out through very difficult ground. Throughout he set a splendid personal example to all, and was utterly regardless of danger. 

Second Supplement to The London Gazette of 14 September 1917. 14 September 1917, Numb. 30284, p. 9533

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