Major Wilfred Edwards VC (16 February 1893 – 4 January 1972) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Wilfred was born on 16 February 1893 in Norwich but moved to Leeds when he was 3, and lived at 33 Greenhill Crescent in Wortley. He was educated at Park Lane Council School but left at the age of 13 to learn the trade of tailoring, and eventually to work as a collier at the Leeds Waterloo Main Colliery.
Edwards enlisted to the army on the 4th September 1914 as a private in the 7th Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantryand was first posted in 1915.
In 1915, Edwards also married Belinda Timlin, and went on to adopt two children with his wife - Winifred & Valerie.
During the First World War Edwards was awarded the VC for his actions on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck, Belguim:
"When all the company officers were lost, Private Edwards, without hesitation and under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from a strong concrete fort, dashed forward at great personal risk, bombed through the loopholes, surmounted the fort and waved to his company to advance. Three officers and 30 other ranks were taken prisoner by him in the fort. Later he did most valuable work as a runner and eventually guided most of the battalion out through very difficult ground. Throughout he set a splendid example and was utterly regardless of danger."
Edwards was commissioned a second lieutenant in December 1917 and was demobilised in June 1919. He re-enlisted in the army when World War Two broke out and rose to the rank of major.
Wilfred Edwards was the last surviving KOYLI holder of the Victoria Cross when he sadly passed away on the 2nd January 1972. His medals are currently displayed in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum, Doncaster.
The unveiling of the Centenary Stone for Private, later Major Wilfred Edwards took place yesterday (15th Aug) at the War Memorial in Armley Park Leeds. The family of Wilfred came together with the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Veterans and serving members of The Rifles and its antecedent regiments to honour this remarkable man. His citation highlighted not only his heroism but also his determination and resolve that allowed him to take control of a serious situation. A true thinking, fighting Rifleman.
Images courtesy of WEST LEEDS COUNTRY PARK & GreenGateways
Watch the ITV Calendar Coverage from the event HERE