GEOFFREY ELLISON WILKINSON
This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Geoffrey Wilkinson is not included on any of the local Wirral memorials, but his death was noted in the Deeside Advertiser as he was well known locally having been a boarding pupil at Braeside School.
Geoffrey Wilkinson in 1913 aged about 15
Geoffrey Ellison Wilkinson was born on 10 August 1897 in the upmarket area of Grassendale Park, Liverpool. He had 2 older sisters, Stella Wilkinson (1892-1957) and Thelma Wilkinson (1895-???). His father, Frank Wilkinson (1847-1934), was a successful timber merchant, born in Liverpool, but living in Birkenhead until he married Harriet Jemima Crowe (1854-1922) in the summer of 1891 in London.
Geoffrey’s grandfather Thomas Wilkinson (1802-1858) came from Northwich, Cheshire, went to sea, then ran a public house in Liverpool before going into the lighterage business. This involved owning flat barges which offloaded cargo in the Mersey from ships which were too large to dock, and seems to have been very lucrative. Thomas and his wife, Mary Ellison (1808-1890), lived in Birkenhead and Mary carried on the business after Thomas’ death. In 1881 she employed 114 men. Mary and all her ancestors came from parishes bordering the Mersey in Lancashire and Cheshire around Warrington where they were generally involved either with lighterage or public houses in some manner.
Harriet’s father, William Crowe (1821-1889) was another successful timber merchant born in Liverpool who lived mainly in Birkenhead. Her mother, Jemima Ann Yates (1824-1868) was born in Liverpool where her father was a pawnbroker. For some unknown reason William and Jemima were married in Basingstoke, Hampshire in 1850.
So both sides of Geoffrey’s family had been prosperous for several generations. It is therefore not surprising that Geoffrey was sent to Braeside School, Devonshire Road, West Kirby.
1911 Census for Braeside School – 3 more names on following page
In 1911 he was one of 14 pupils boarding at the school. As there were a headmaster and 2 assistant masters, the school must also have had day pupils, so it is no surprise that Geoffrey would have been remembered in West Kirby. One of the boarding pupils in 1911 was John Kenneth Kniveton. Of the 14 boarders, 3 were definitely too young to serve during the war. Of the remaining 11 pupils at least 3 died, together with one of the 2 assistant masters. Another slightly older former pupil was Eric Blackburn and it seems likely that there are others included in our list.
In 1912 Geoffrey moved to St Edward’s School, Oxford. This is a very well respected public school, which has the distinction of having had a higher proportion of old boys who served in the war pro rata than any other British public school. 109 old boys died during WW1. Geoffrey was almost certainly a member of St Edward’s OTC (Officer Training Corps). OTCs had been started at many public schools and universities from 1908 onwards, as there was a perceived need to train an officer corps for the future. In 1913 he took part in a school production of Shakespeare’s ‘King John‘, and the photo we have of him is from the cast photograph.
On his 17th birthday, 10 August 1914, Geoffrey enlisted as Private 1560 in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
He served in the Southern Hospital, Portsmouth for a few months. On 14 December 1914 he was commissioned and posted to the 15th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment.
On 6 February 1916 he landed in France. He was killed in action on 30 July 1916 at the Battle of Guillemont on the Somme. At that time he was attached to the 20th (Pals) Battalion of his regiment, and was a range finding officer. He was just 11 days short of his 19th birthday.
Liverpool ‘Pals’ cap badge
His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial as well as at St Edward’s School, Oxford and panel 35 of the Memorial in Liverpool Town Hall.
Thanks are due to Chris Nathan, Archivist at St Edward’s School, Oxford for assistance.
Birth: 10 Aug 1897 at Grassington Park, Liverpool
Death: 30 Jul 1916 at Guillemont, Somme, France
Addresses: Grassington Park, Liverpool (01); Braeside school, Devonshire Road, West Kirby (11)
Units: Southern Hospital, Portsmouth, Royal Army Medical Corps; 15th Battalion, attached 20th (Pals) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Numbers and Ranks: 1560, Royal Army Medical Corps; 2nd Lieutenant
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; St Edward’s School, Oxford; Liverpool Town Hall panel 35
Sources: CWGC, MC, Census: 01, 11, DA, LG, Prob, St Edward’s School, Oxford, PR