Heaviside – Private Michael Wilson

15 October 1880 – 26 April 1939

Michael was born in St Giles, Durham and was employed as a miner at Burnhope Colliery, Durham. He served as a stretcher-bearer in the Second Boer War before returning to mining and moving to the Oswald Pit in 1913.

Michael enlisted in the 10th Durham Light Infantry on 7 September 1914 and was posted to France on 10 June 1915. He transferred into the 15th Battalion soon afterwards.

On 6th May 1917 near Fontaine-les Croiselles, France, a wounded British soldier was seen at about 2pm in a shell hole some 40 yards from the enemy line. It was impossible to rescue him during daylight, but Private Heaviside volunteered to take water and food to him. This he succeeded in doing, in spite of heavy gunfire and found that the man had been lying in the shell-hole for four days and three nights. The arrival of the water undoubtedly saved his life. Private Heaviside returned that same evening and succeeded, with the help of two fellow stretcher bearers, in rescuing the man.

Michael returned to mining at Craghead. The effects of gas poisoning, coal dust and heavy smoking sadly resulted in his death at the age of 58. He was buried in an unmarked grave in St Thomas churchyard, Craghead as the family was unable to afford a headstone at the time. A headstone – paid for by the family, the Durham Light Infantry Association and the Light Infantry – was dedicated on 1 November 1999.

On 12 July 1957 Michael’s son, Company Sergeant Major Norman Heaviside, presented his father’s medals to the Durham Light Infantry, watched by Michael’s widow and more than 30 members of his family.  

Filed under: WW1