Edwin Willdig, L/Cpl 13160, 10th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
Killed in action 27th June 1916 in Somme, France, aged 29
Edwin Willdig was baptised on 26th June 1887 at St Peter’s Church, Windmill Street, Macclesfield, the son of Elizabeth Ann and Charles Willdig, a silk weaver of 12 Bank Street, Macclesfield. In 1891, three year old Edwin was living with his parents at 4 Buke Street, Macclesfield.
Edwin was educated at St Paul’s School, and attended Park Green United Methodist Sunday School and Mill Street Mission.
By 1901, Edwin’s family had moved, perhaps to find work, and 13 year old Edwin was living at 60 Warrington Road, Culcheth, Lancashire with his parents and siblings Eliza (9), Florence (6), William (4) and Sarah Ann (2). Edwin was working as a scavenger in a cotton mill and his father was a colliery labourer (above ground). The family later returned to Macclesfield.
Edwin found work in Stockport as a porter with the London and North Western Railway, and was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants Trade Union. He married Florence Whittingham at St Mary’s Church, Stockport on 24th December 1906.
In 1911, the couple were living at 13 Great Moor Street, Stockport, with their children Florence (6), and Annie (2). Another daughter, Elizabeth Hannah, was born later that year on 15th October, and a fourth daughter, Edith, was born on 1st November 1915. A son, Charles Edwin, was born in 1907 but died at the age of 9 months. The family later moved to 15 Leek Street, Higher Hillgate, Stockport.
Edwin enlisted with the 9th Cheshire Regiment in Stockport on 1st September 1914, stating that he had previously served with the 5th Cheshire Regiment. He was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 132 pounds, with a 35 inch chest, dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.
Edwin was given service number 15383, but on 7th October he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit for service, due to suffering from chronic bronchitis.
Undeterred, Edwin later went to Ashton-under-Lyne and enlisted with the Lancashire Fusiliers. After training, he was drafted to France on 15th July 1915. Edwin was promoted to Lance-Corporal and became a grenade thrower.
On 23rd June Edwin’s Battalion was in the trenches at Bois des Tailles, somewhere near Albert in France, having just taken over the 20th Brigade front line from the 2nd Gordon Highlanders and 8th Devonshire Regiment. The Battalion war diary had the following entry for the period 23rd to 28th June:
Gas & smoke attacks and a practically continuous bombardment of the enemy by our artillery. At times for an hour intensive. Enemy replied by M.G. [Machine Gun] fire at night and a vigorous shelling of our trenches.
Edwin was killed instantly by a shell as he was leaving his dugout on 27th June 1916.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier on 22nd July 1916:
LANCE-CORPORAL E WILDIG
Information has been received by Mr Charles Wildig, of 108 Black Road, Macclesfield, of the death of his son, Lance-Corporal Edwin Wildig, of the 10th Batt Cheshire Regiment [sic], on June 26th. Lance-Corporal Wildig was educated at St Paul’s School, and for the past nine years he had worked at Stockport as a porter-guard on the L & NW Railway. He was a member of the Territorial Force, and was called up on the outbreak of war. He was in training until nine months ago, when he was out to France. A memorial service was held on Sunday night last, at the Mill Street Mission, where the deceased soldier formerly attended.
A report of his death was also printed in the Macclesfield Times on 21st July 1916:
KILLED WHILE LEAVING DUG-OUT
… Deceased, who was 29 years of age, was serving in the 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. He was a grenade bomber. Lance-Corpl. Willdig leaves a wife and four children, who reside at Stockport, where the deceased had been employed as a porter-guard on the London and North-Western Railway. Sympathetic letters have been received from his officer, who stated that the Lance-Corporal was struck by a shell as he was leaving his dug-out and killed instantly. Deceased was a former scholar at Park Green United Methodist Sunday School.
L/Cpl Edwin Willdig is buried in Grave Ref. III. E. 15. of the Citadel New Military Cemetery, Fricourt in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for L/Cpl Edwin Willdig, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, L/Cpl Edwin Willdig is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, and St Michael’s Church war memorials. Elsewhere, he is commemorated in the Stockport Art Gallery Memorial Chapel (Wellington Road).