Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 August 2021)
Date of Auction: 17th August 2021
Sold for £1,500
Estimate: £240 - £280
1914 Star, with clasp (2235 Pte. L. G. M. Wilkins. 14/Lond: R.); British War and Victory Medals (2235 Pte. L. G. M. Wilkins. 14-Lond. R.); Memorial Plaque (Leslie Guy Millward Wilkins) nearly extremely fine (4) £240-£280
FootnoteLeslie Guy Millward Wilkins was born in 1894 at Wimbledon, Surrey and attested for the London Scottish in August 1914, serving with them during the Great War on the Western Front from 16 September 1914.
Having performed various duties in St. Omer, his battalion travelled to Ypres on London buses and then marched to Wytschaete on the morning of 31 October - from there they advanced up the slopes of Messines Ridge to the firing line just east of the Messines-Wytschaete road:
‘Heavy casualties among leading companies at crest of ridge. Enemy attacked about 9pm and were driven back by rifle fire and a series of charges. The rifles in use had been issued at Abbots Langley and were the Mark 1 pattern converted to take Mark VII ammunition. Battalion records show that not a man had the opportunity to fire the new weapons. It would soon be discovered that the magazines had springs too weak and that the front stop clips were the wrong shape for the Mark VII rounds. The rifles could only be used as single-loaders. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Lindsay notes that “steady shooting beat off the attack”.
A second attack also repulsed - “remembered it was Hallowe’en... saw a party of men in kilts in our rear. Did not know if they were our men or Germans. They got within a dozen yards, when we saw they wore spiked helmets, and shot them. Were attacked in both front and rear”, wrote one man present.
A third attack forced the Scottish back - “they advanced in quarter column with a brass band playing at their head, playing the Austrian National Anthem.”
Another eyewitness mentions seeing the Medical Office, Captain A. MacNab, bayoneted and killed whilst attending to the wounded. Forward trenches almost surrounded. Reserve line at Enfer charged the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lindsay records - “a prolonged and confused struggle... there was hard fighting, bayonets were crossed, fire was exchanged at close quarters... officers, sergeants and men had to act on their own initiative.’ (British Battalions in France and Belgium 1914 by Ray Westlake refers)
A withdrawal towards Wulveringhem was ordered the following day (1 November). After the fighting at Messines, Paul Maze, a liaison officer with the 2nd Cavalry Division, saw the battalion and later wrote: ‘His kilt in rags, looking utterly exhausted, a Sergeant of the London Scottish was forming up his men who stood like sailors being photographed on a shore within sight of their wreck’ (A Frenchman in Khaki by Paul Maze refers)
Having suffered casualties of 394 (all ranks) at Messines, the battalion’s commanding officer received telegrams of congratulation from Field Marshal Sir John French and Brigadier-General C. E. Bingham, 4th Cavalry Brigade, the latter writing, ‘I venture to ask you to convey to your Regiment my deepest gratitude and admiration for the work they performed on October 31 and through the following night. No troops in the world could have carried out their orders better, and while deploring the losses you have incurred, I unhesitatingly affirm that the Allied Armies in France owe to the London Scottish a place of high honour amongst their heroes’
Private Wilkins was wounded and captured at Messines on 31 October 1914. He died of his wounds whilst a prisoner of war at Lille on 7 March 1915. He was the son of Francis and Emilie of 4 Malcolm Road, Wimbledon and is buried in Lille Southern Cemetery, France. He is also commemorated on a plaque in the Warrior Chapel, St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Road, Wimbledon.