This blog posting was prepared by volunteer, Frank Lockley.
The Express & Star of 10th May 1918 carries tributes to Second Lieutenant Norman Bayley Wilkes.
He was killed in action on 29th April 1918, shot by machine gun fire, during action to re-take an isolated post from the enemy in north east France near the village of Festubert.
Norman Wilkes was born in Smethwick in 1897. In 1911 he is living with his parents Thomas and Elizabeth and twin sister Alice May at The Cedars in Albert Road, Wolverhampton. His father is a clergyman “in the established Church”.
There is little information available regarding his military career but from his age he must have enlisted during the later years of the war. His medal index card shows that he entered France on 10th February with the 1/5th battalion South Staffordshire regiment.
The article in the Express & Star states that his father was in receipt of several letters following his son’s death. The Major General of the division to which the battalion was attached wrote to the effect that Lieut. Wilkes was killed at the head of his platoon on April 29th under very special circumstances. “It must be some consolation to you to know how bravely and devotedly he performed his duty… we in the division are proud of his memory”. Describing Lieut. Wilkes’ death his Colonel wrote “I expected that he would in time with a little more experience have merited the highest commendation. He showed courage of a high order and would have eventually attained rapid progress”. The Colonel went on to say that officers, non commissioned officers and men of the battalion joined in sending every sympathy.
A further tribute came from the Reverend Arthur Brown who said that “he was adored by all ranks…his men loved him for he was the friend of all and the enemy of none”. Norman Wilkes was buried with military honours on his 21st birthday. His remains now lie in the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension alongside the others that died in the action.