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Godson of Victoria Cross Recipient Sees Medal For First Time

The Godson of a First World War soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross has seen the medal for the first time, on display at York Castle Museum.

Alvin Turner, from Thirsk, made the trip especially to see the VC awarded to Wilfrid Edwards after hearing about the museum’s new exhibition, 1914: When the World Changed Forever.

Alvin has been able to give the curators much more information about Wilfrid to help tell a more complete story of his life.

Alvin said:

“My mother, Mollie Turner, took great care of her Father’s and Wilfrid’s First World War belongings. After her death, I inherited a lot of the pieces that she had kept and was under strict instructions to look after them.

“I knew that Wilfrid had donated his medals to York Castle Museum and, with this being the centenary year, I thought now would be a good time to come and see them for the first time.”

Wilfrid served in the 7th Battalion, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the First World War and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck, Belgium when he was just 24. He survived the war and re-enlisted when the Second World War broke out in 1939.

The Victoria Cross was donated to York Castle Museum at the suggestion of Alvin Turner’s mother Mollie who was from Yorkshire and lived in York for many years. Wilfrid, who was also Mollie’s Godfather, originally became friends with Mollie’s father during their time together in service.

 

Alvin met with curators to learn more about the medal, and brought more fascinating items with him.

Andrew Woods, curator of numismatics at York Museums Trust said:

“Some of the pieces that Alvin brought are absolutely exceptional. In particular, the Victoria Cross medal ribbon, which is something that I have never seen before. What is particularly amazing is that Alvin was able to bring a photograph of Wilfrid wearing the medal ribbon, which helps to bring it to life.
“He also brought a whistle which had belonged to Wilfrid during the First World War. It is amazing to think that he may have been wearing it during his incredibly brave actions which led to his Victoria Cross. It is so rare to have that kind of connection to acts of gallantry during the First World War.”

The Victoria Cross is the most prestigious award that a soldier can receive for bravery. York Castle Museum has three Victoria Crosses, which are on rotational display.

The Wilfrid Edward’s VC

Wilfrid Edwards (16th February 1893- 4th January 1972) was awarded the Victoria Cross for the following actions: “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.”

He lived in Leeds following the war, working for the gas department. He was instrumental in initiating an annual dinner for Leeds’ Victoria Cross holders.

York Museums Trust will be producing an online exhibition focusing upon First World War medals, and the soldiers who were awarded them, in Spring 2015.

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