John William “Willie” Wilcock, No- 7806 Private, 2nd Battalion, Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) was killed in action at the Battle of Ypres, Belgium 8th May 1915 and commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. William Wilcock was born ‘John William Wilcock’, Withington Didsbury Manchester in 1886 but was always known as ‘William Wilcock’, the son of James William & Mary Ellen Wilcock (nee Brazendale) and the husband of Elizabeth Williams of Buckley whom he married in Manchester.
William spent his adult years living and working in his parent’s bakery & confectionery business as their delivery driver, with a short three year enlistment in the regular army from 1903 to 1906. At the outbreak of the war William was recalled from the Army Reserve back to his old regiment, the K.O.R.L.R. at which time his wife Elizabeth returned from Manchester to live in Buckley while William was away at the Front.
John William Wilcock married Elizabeth Williams in the Chorley (Manchester) reg distr (which includes Withington and Didsbury) ref: 8C/1856. UKBMDSearch online under Lancashire shows that it took place at Chorlton-on-Medlock Registry Office. Elizabeth was born in Buckley and christened in the Parish of Bistre on 28 January 1891.
Elizabeth Williams was christened on 28 January 1891 in Bistre Parish Church, to parents Thomas and Rachel Williams of Spon Green. In 1891 Elizabeth Williams is the only child aged 7 months (born Buckley) of parent’s Thomas and Rachel Williams living at Spon Green. Thomas is a coal miner born Buckley in 1867 and Rachel was born in Mold in the same year (both aged 24). Marriage was Dec qtr 1886, Holywell reg distr, 11B/415, maiden name Gunning. In 1901 Elizabeth Williams is aged 10 living in her Aunt’s house at 43 Spon Green. Her Aunt is Ruth E Williams (married) born Fartown, Worcestershire in 1874. In 1911 Elizabeth ‘Mary’ Williams age 23 born Buckley is a domestic servant living in the Brocklehurst family home at 8 Linden Street, Didsbury, Manchester. This is the Elizabeth Williams who later married William Wilcock of Didsbury.
On the 2 April 1915 William’s wife Elizabeth received a pre-paid postcard from the War Office requesting William’s official address, which she filled in and mailed back as “100 Brook Street, Spon Green, Buckley, near Chester”. This tells us that Elizabeth Wilcock returned home to her roots in Buckley whilst her husband was overseas during the war
Elizabeth Wilcock later married Paul Walton (a WW1 veteran) in Heaton Mersey, Manchester in 1920, but there seems to be no issue from either of her marriages to William or Paul. Paul Walton’s death is recorded in the Stockport reg distr, June qtr 1926 ref 8A/134, age 35, thus Elizabeth was widowed twice within 11 years
John William Wilcock is also commemorated on the Didsbury War Memorial.
In 2018 William’s Victory Medal was found in a box by James Williams who by inference is a relative of William’s wife Elizabeth Williams.
James Williams also provided a letter written home by William (“Willie”) to the Williams family shortly before he embarked for France. This confirms that his wife Bessie was living with her family in Buckley while Willie was away.
transcription by Carol Shone
Dear Uncle and Aunty
Hope you are in the best of health as it leaves me at present. Sorry to say that I am leaving here tomorrow Thursday for the front again just my luck but help to keep Bessie my wife up in the best of spirits while the darling is with you. Expect Jim wife is still improving again hoping her a speedy recovery. Also the rest of the family are keeping well. Suppose Loll look rare and well with being in Wales just about getting used to it. It is very hard times for me having to go and face the front again but suppose duty has to be done. Will myself be much upset in going out about my wife Bessie frighten dearest will take to heart. Perhaps you will be able to coax her and keep her going not to think always of me. With my best love to you hoping the Lord will spare me to come back again to you all also best love to Aunty
xx Yours etc. Willie
Another letter provided by James Williams was written to Lawrence Downey from his parents and mentions Bessie, William’s wife, and that William has been reported missing presumed dead. An extract is included below. (Lawrence Downey, who was adopted by the Downey family after the death of his mother soon after he was born, was a brother to Elizabeth Williams).
Harry Wilcock wrote to someone in France about Willie and had a letter from him to say as they cannot trace him anywhere in Germany he is not a prisoner with his own lot so we are thinking he is killed and buried in the trenches. Joe Parry got wounded in France last week, there are a good many killed and wounded from Buckley……..