Streets to be named in honour of War heroes

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FOUR roads are to be named after four of the borough’s World War One heroes who were awardedd the Victoria Cross during the conflict.

The Victoria Cross, or VC, is the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy”. Four men from Wigan Borough were awarded the VC during World War One - Alfred Wilkinson from Leigh, Thomas Woodcock from Wigan, John Grimshaw from Abram and William Keneally from Ashton.

The council has committed to naming a road after each of the men over the next four years as part of its programme to commemorate the centenary of World War One. The first road named in honour of the local VC winners has already been approved.

Private Alfred Wilkinson will be recognised with a road named in his honour on a new housing estate in Bickershaw. The builders, Taylor Wimpey, and ward councillors have agreed the most prominent road on the estate should be called Wilkinson Park Drive. There are plans to erect a tribute to Private Wilkinson on the estate.

He won the VC for the bravery he showed during the Battle of Selle in Marou in northern France in October 1918. He completed a daring mission across no man’s land.

During the attack, four runners had been killed attempting to deliver a message to the supporting company.

Private Wilkinson volunteered to relay the message and succeeded despite the journey involving exposure to heavy machine-gun and shell fire for 600 yards.

Private Wilkinson, who served with the Manchester Regiment, later achieved the rank of lieutenant. He was born in Leigh in December 1896. He survived the trenches and returned to Leigh. Alfred married Grace Davies in 1932. He opened a sweet shop with his wife before going to work at Bickershaw Colliery.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Alfred joined the home guard. He continued working at the colliery where sadly he was killed in 1940. He died as a result of gas poisoning. He was buried with full military honours in Leigh Borough Cemetery. Fittingly, the road being named in his honour is located on the former Bickershaw Colliery site.

Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, who is also the ward member for the area, said: “I’m very pleased we are recognising the extraordinary bravery of Private Wilkinson by naming a road in his honour. This is a fitting tribute and will ensure that the name of Alfred Wilkinson will be remembered for years to come.”