Thanks to Wigan Archives & Local Studies and Digitisation Volunteer, Matthew Sheppard for this update on what is now a fantastic resource of military photographs relating to the area.
Over the past six months I have been digitising and cataloguing photographs from the First World War and the Second World War (and occasionally Boer War). They have either been photographed in Wigan or Leigh, or pictured people from Wigan or Leigh. There have been a wide range of photographs from individual portrait photographs of soldiers and full regiments to photographs of newspaper articles and Air Raid Precaution notices to the public. There were also photographs from a multitude of parades including Women’s Day, Warship Week, Civil Defence Sunday, Battle of Britain and Victory in Europe Day. Many of these featured large crowds, marching soldiers and brass/percussive bands.
Some of the first images I came across pictured houses damaged during the zeppelin raid on Wigan on the night of 12 April 1918, killing seven people. It was the second of only two zeppelin raids on Lancashire during the First World War and curiously the pilot’s log recorded that the zeppelin had bombed Sheffield, not Wigan. I found it particularly interesting to see such damage done to familiar looking buildings, having only previously seen these types of photographs set abroad or in London, which of course still carry a certain amount of impact, but not to the same degree as with the feeling of locality.
Alfred Wilkinson, VC.
A frequent feature of the Leigh photographs was Private (and later Lieutenant) Alfred Wilkinson who was born in Leigh in 1896 and enlisted in the Royal Great Scots in 1914, later transferring to the Seaforth Highlanders and finally 1/5th Battalion, Manchester Regiment who he was sent to France with in July 1916. One of these photographs was of a notice dated Thursday 22 January 1919 approving that he be awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 20 October 1918 at Marou, France. He volunteered to deliver a message requesting assistance from another company which required him crossing 600 yards of heavy machine gun fire and shell fire on foot. This task had previously been attempted by four runners, one by one, who were each killed doing so. Private Wilkinson succeeded. He later reached the rank of Lieutenant and on 18 October 1940 died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a mining accident at Bickershaw Colliery, Leigh.
Matthew has digitised and catalogued over 400 military images from the Wigan Archives & Local Studies photographic collection. It is a wonderful new resource and we would like to thank Matthew for all his hard work. Alex Miller, Archives Manager