Bedales 1907 – 1909 Captain 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment

John Wilkinson spent only two years at Bedales. He was born in Staffordshire, the second child and only son of John Wilkinson and his wife Margaret Alice née Warburton who had married in Leeds in 1889.  John senior was a Chartered Accountant but his father and elder brother were Linen Drapers.  Margaret had been born in Birmingham in 1867 but her father died when she was very young and 1869 found her being baptised in the Wesleyan Chapel in Leeds, possibly staying with an uncle; however, on census day 1871 Margaret and her mother were back in Birmingham, living with her maternal grandfather, Mark Yates, a retail brewer.  In 1874 Margaret’s mother re-married and by 1881 Margaret aged 13, was again in Leeds living with her paternal uncle John Warburton, another Linen Draper.

John and Margaret and their one year old daughter Ethel were in Handsworth in 1891 and it was there that young John was born.  By 1901 John senior (described as cousin), Margaret (niece) and 7 year old John H W (cousin) were back with Linen Draper John Warburton in Headingley (I haven’t established the exact relationship but in 1871 John Warburton had an apprentice called Benjamin Wilkinson).  Both Leeds and Staffordshire had been home to many of the early Bedalians, so young John, arriving in Steep aged 14 in September 1907, might have found himself amongst friends. 

John seems to have left little mark on school publications.  For some inexplicable reason he is usually referred to as “B Wilkinson” – presumably some school nickname – even in formal lists, but there is sufficient evidence to establish that “B” is John. There are three references in The Bedales Chronicle to his activity on the cricket field.  In the summer of 1908 he is recorded as having played 4 innings in the Third XI, his highest score being 5 not out.  The following year, his last summer at Bedales, he had risen to the Second XI, but was out for a duck against the Petersfield Second XI.  He fared rather better playing for Mr. Badley’s XI against the Bedales Girls’ First XI, coming in at number 8 and scoring 22 runs before he was bowled by Dorothy Winser.

Leaving school at Christmas 1909, according to Mr. Badley’s account in The Bedales Record of 1917, John “went off to a farm”.  On census day 1911, aged 17, he is described as “farm pupil” in Bradford-on-Avon.  The farmer, Samuel Blackwell, was only 22 and living with his 25 year old sister, a 37 year old cousin, who was described as “housekeeper”, and a 57 year old aunt. 

I have no further knowledge of his farming career but on 20th September 1914 he volunteered for the South Staffordshire Regiment and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion in November.  In July 1915 he first went to France: on 3rd April 1916 he was gazetted a full Lieutenant and promoted temporary Captain on 1st June.  John obviously had a serious war as he was twice quite severely wounded during this period.  In the obituary of Garth S. Taylor in November 1916, The Bedales Chronicle recorded that of the seven new boys in Autumn 1907 five had been killed and J H Wilkinson and P C Layard had been wounded (I hope to track down more details when I can again go to The National Archives). 

On 22nd April 1917 John was again seriously wounded near Lens and on 5th May in St. Omer he died of his wounds and was buried in plot IV B 75 in Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery.  On 17th September probate for his estate of £3014 4s 2d was granted to his father John Wilkinson, gentleman, of Bourton-on- the- Water. 

Sources: the Bedales Archives: genealogical sites.