Edwards – Private Wilfred Claude

16 February 1893 – 2 January 1972

Wilfred was born in Norwich but moved to Wortley, Leeds with his mother at the age of three. He worked as a miner at Waterloo Main Colliery, Leeds before enlisting in the 7th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1914.

He was wounded twice, both times requiring convalescence, before rejoining his battalion in 1917.

On 16th August 1917 at Langemarck, Belgium, Private Edwards, without hesitation and under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from a strong concrete fort, dashed forward at great personal risk, bombed through the loopholes, surmounted the fort and waved to his company to advance. Three officers and 30 other ranks were taken prisoner by him in the fort. Later he did most valuable work as a runner and eventually guided most of the battalion out through very difficult ground.

After being presented with the VC in 1917, he received a hero’s welcome in Victoria Square, Leeds and was handed a cheque for £200 raised by public subscription. He was also given a silver watch by his old school.

He was offered a commission but had to relinquish it due to his war wounds and although assessed as 60% disabled, he returned to mining after the war. On 2 January 1941, during the Second World War, Wilfred was granted a Regular Army Emergency Commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He was promoted to Temporary Captain in 1944. Immediately after the Second World War he ran a Ford factory in Germany, and after demobilisation he worked for a firm of accountants and later at a factory near Pudsey, Yorkshire. He was granted the Freedom of Leeds in 1950.

Upon his death he left his VC to the York Castle Museum, where it is still held.

Filed under: WW1