Located in front of Norwich’s war memorial are a few stone commemorative slabs that I only noticed for the first time last week.
This is one of them, for Private Wilfred Edwards, from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and it was placed here in August 2017. The date isn’t Wilfred’s death, but is from the event when his actions won him the Victoria Cross on 16 August 1917. This award was issued 628 times in the First World War, the most of any conflict as there have only ever been 1,355 recipients.
His Victoria Cross award reads:
“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 forwards 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 Private Edwards did most valuable work as a runner and eventually guided most of the battalion out through very difficult ground. Throughout he set a splendid example and was utterly regardless of danger.”
And the reason that this is commemorated in Norwich is that this is the city in which Wilfred was born, on 16 February 1893 at 76 Vauxhall Street in Heigham. I’ll leave it a Victoria Cross web-site to tell the bulk of the story, as they have far more detail than I would have collected. I like the letter sent by Wilfred’s commanding officer which he sent to his wife after Wilfred’s award was given, noting “men in my battalion keep getting honours, but I have not heard a word about mine”.
Wilfred became a second lieutenant in December 1917 and left the military in 1919. At the time of the 1939 register, he was living at 33 Greenhill Crescent in Leeds, with his wife Belinda (born on 21 December 1892). He served again during the Second World War, this time he reached the rank of major. He died at the age of 78 on 4 January 1972 and is buried at Upper and Lower Wortley Cemetery in Leeds.