Stockport’s Victoria Cross Heroes Commemorated

As part of the national World War One centenary commemorations an engraved paving stone will be laid in the birth towns of soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross

Stockport has two recipients: Wilfred Wood and James Kirk.
These commemorative stones will be unveiled exactly 100 years to the day since they were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Wilfred Wood was born in Hazel Grove on 2nd February 1897 and was a private from the 10th Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers, and was awarded the Victoria Cross on 28th October 1918 for his bravery and initiative at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in Italy which took place between 24 October to 3rd November 1918 and was seen as a decisive victory that contributed to the end of the War. His selfless actions whilst under fire caused hundreds of enemy soldiers to surrender. He returned home to Hazel Grove working for London and North Western Railway (LNWR) for 46 years, and was married to Bessie for 57 years. Wilfred Wood died in Stockport on 3 January 1982 and was cremated at Stockport Crematorium on 8th January, 1982 and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.

Wilfred Wood’s citation:
On 28th October 1918, near Casa Van, Italy, when a unit on the right flank having been held up by hostile machine guns and snipers, Pte. Wood, on his own initiative, worked forward with his Lewis gun, enfiladed the enemy machine-gun nest, and caused 140 enemy to surrender. The advance was continued till a hidden machine gun opened fire at point blank range. Without a moment's hesitation Pte. Wood charged the machine gun, firing his Lewis gun from the hip at the same time. He killed the machine-gun crew, and without further orders pushed on and enfiladed a ditch from which three officers and 160 men subsequently surrendered. The conspicuous valour and initiative of this gallant soldier in the face of intense rifle and machine-gun fire was beyond all praise.

Wilfred Wood’s commemorative service will be held this Sunday (28 October) at 10:30am at Hazel Grove War Memorial, laying wreaths and unveiling the paving stone will be The Mayor of Stockport, the family of Wilfred Wood, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and The Royal British Legion.

James Kirk was born on 27 January 1897 and was a second lieutenant from the 10th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and devotion to duty near Ors in northern France. His actions prevented many casualties and enabled men from his battalion to cross a bridge before it was eventually destroyed. He was killed in action on 4 November 1918. James is buried alongside the poet Wilfred Owen who served with him in the 2nd Battalion and was also killed during the crossing. They are buried in the Ors Communal Cemetery, France. The parents of James Kirk were presented with their son’s posthumous Victoria Cross by King George V in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace on 1st March 1919.

James Kirk’s citation:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty North of Ors on the 4th November 1918, whilst attempting to bridge the Oise Canal. To cover the bridging of the canal he took a Lewis gun, and, under intense machine-gun fire, paddled across the canal on a raft, and at a range of ten yards expended all his ammunition. Further ammunition was paddled across to him and he continuously maintained a covering fire for the bridging party from a most exposed position till killed at his gun. The supreme contempt of danger and magnificent self-sacrifice displayed by this gallant officer prevented many casualties and enabled two platoons to cross the bridge before it was destroyed.

James Kirk’s commemorative service will be held on Sunday 4 November at 10:30am at the Cheadle Hulme War Memorial. Laying wreaths and unveiling the paving stone will be The Deputy Mayor of Stockport, the family of James Kirk, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and The Royal British Legion.

The Mayor of Stockport Councillor Walter Brett said “It is a great honour for Stockport that we can recognise Wilfred Wood’s V.C. and James Kirk’s V.C. heroic actions in the First World War, unveiling a dedicated paving stone in their honour on the centenary of the award of the Victoria Cross, along with their families, is a great privilege. We owe a great debt to them and the many that have given their lives for our freedom.”