CWG: Corporal Wilfred Gillson

Corporal Wilfred Gillson

Wilfred Allen Gillson was born in 1888, the fourth of nine children – and one of eight boys – to George and Emma Gillson. George was a coachbuilder from Cornwall; Emma, whose maiden name was Allen, came from Derbyshire. The family were living in Torquay by the time Wilfred was born.

In 1895, George had moved the family to Bridgwater in Somerset, presumably as railway works had dried up in the coastal Devon town. By this time his oldest son, also called George, was working as a compositor, keying text for a printer. Wilfred was still at school, but his other two older siblings – William and Albert – were both working with their father, working on railway coaches.

Wilfred was also to follow in his father’s employment, and the 1911 census found him living in Bristol, boarding with the Cridland family, earning his keep a a carriage painter.

He joined up within weeks of war breaking out, enlisting in the Worcestershire Regiment on 20th September 1914. Private Gillson readily proved his worth, and was promoted to Lance Corporal after three months, and Corporal within a year of enlisting.

Corporal Gillson’s promotion coincided with his shipment abroad, and he served on the Western Front for eight months. Returning to England in March 1916, he subsequently transferred to the Devonshire Regiment, before being moved to the 4th Reserve Battalion in the spring of 1917.

Things were not right for Wilfred; he was reprimanded for neglecting his post on the night of the 26th May that year, before being medically discharged with neurasthenia in August.

The root of the matter is detailed in his discharge report; he was hospitalised at Neuve Chapelle in February 1916, suffering from shellshock, and it seems that he never really fully recovered.

Sadly, at this point Wilfred’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 10th November 1918, aged 30 years old.

Wilfred Allen Gillson lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in Bridgwater, Somerset.

There are a couple of additional notes to Wilfred’s life.

During the war, Wilfred’s youngest brother, Thomas, fought with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was involved in the fighting in France, but died from wounds on 10th June 1918. He was just 18 years old, and is buried at Aire-sur-la-Lys, not far from Boulogne.

Given that Wilfred was one of eight brothers, all of whom would have been of fighting age during the war, it is lucky – although still a tragedy – that only he and Thomas died as a result of the conflict.

Sadly, Wilfred’s mother, Emma, passed away in the autumn of 1914, at 57 years of age. It might be a blessing, however, that she was not alive to see two of her sons suffer so.

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