One of the reasons we came to the Somme, apart from the WW1 history, was to find the grave of Andrew’s great grandfather and the children’s great, great grandfather, (George Edmund Wilkins) who had died during the war. This was actually our second attempt to find the grave, we tried in 2002 and were unsuccessful, this time with the internet I found the exact location before going there. I did discover that there are two different Vadencourt’s with different spellings and that is why we didn’t find it the first time.
George Edmund Wilkins is buried in the Vadencourt British Cemetery, near Maissemy, surrounded by farmland in a very peaceful, rural location. In most cases during WW1, they buried the dead near where they died, as was the case with George, who is buried beside fellow fallen soldiers of the Gloucestershire Regiment. It was actually a very moving experience, both Ava and I felt a bit teary to think that a family member, so young, lost his life here while protecting his country.
The Vadencourt British Cemetery, near Maissemy
Max had researched his great, great grandfather for a history project a few years ago, so I have included his work below, along with photos and some of the postcards that George wrote during WW1.
My Great, Great Grandfather George
My Great, great grandfather George was born in 1889 at the millhouse at Lower Slaughter. George was the youngest of the family. George went to school in Belmore House in Cheltenham’s Bath Road until he was 14, then he went into the family business. When George was in his early twenties he married Mable Blanche Stayte.
When the Great War started George was very patriotic, so he made a decision that would change his life forever. On the 20th of November he enlisted in the army. George was part of the 2/5th Gloucester Regiment. In April of 1915 the regiment was moved to Chelmsford where they spent about a year in training.
Photo on the left is of George with his parents and possibly siblings and nephew. Photo on the right is George in uniform.
George is the furthermost on the right.
George is in the middle row, second from the left. It is a postcard with a letter on the back that he sent to his wife Mable, while based in Chelmsford.
Other postcards sent by George during 1915 from Chelmsford to his wife Mable.
George’s battalion landed in France on the 23rd of May, 1916, just a few months after his only son, George William Wilkins was born. By August 1915, the battalion became part of the 184th Brigade, 61st division. George’s 61st division, along with Australia’s 5th division fought alongside each other on the attack on Fromelles. The attack did not go well and although George survived over 1500 men from the 61st division and 5500 from the Australian division died. The 61st division spent several days burying the dead, no Germans fired on them during this time. By the end of October George’s battalion had moved to the Somme in the trenches for the brutal winter. A surprise attack on the Germans by George’s battalion on the 7th of April 1917 was a successful mission, but many people from the 2/5th Gloucester Regiment died, including George, aged 26.
George’s wife, Mable received a telegram telling her the news.
Written jointly by Max and Karen
photos courtesy of Christine Deeley, George Edmund Wilkin’s granddaughter