Robert WILSON was born in Attercliffe, Sheffield on 7th June 1891. He resided with his parents John and Mary Jane WILSON 51 Grove Road, Millhouses, Sheffield. Robert was educated at Rotherham Grammar School and Sheffield University. He qualified as a metallurgist and was employed as a chemist.
At the age of 23yrs he enlisted with the 12th York and Lancaster Regiment on 11th September 1914 when he was allocated service number 12-825 and attached to ‘C’ Coy. On completion of training Robert sailed with his regiment to Egypt. He embarked HMTS NESTOR on 20th December 1915 and arrived at Alexandria on 1st January 1916. After a short spell in the heat the Regiment embarked HMTS BRITON on 10th March 1916 and set sail for France arriving on the 15th March 1916.
The 12th battalion York and Lancaster Regiment were to take part in the ‘Big Push’ we all now know as the battle of the Somme, to take place on the 1st July 1916.
They took up positions near to the village of Serre, where they would attack on the 1st July. Their positions ran along the leading edge of a series woods that became known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John Copses.
The Germans, suspicious of British activity, were expecting a large scale offensive so began to launch trench raids on our lines in order to gain intelligence from prisoners and it was during one such raid on the night of the 15th-16th May 1916 that Robert was to gain recognition for bravery. At 12.20am on the 16th May the Germans commenced a heavy bombardment of Mark, Luke, John Copses and the area North of it followed at 12.50am by a bombardment of Observation Wood, Le Cateau, Excema and Nairne trenches and then the Germans launched their attack targeted at the trenches of the Royal Berkshire Regiment on the 12th Y + L Battalions left. Germans were seen entering the 12ths trenches in John Copse and a battle ensued where the Germans were fought off by men of ‘C’ Coy. A number of German casualties were left behind as the enemy retreated out of the trench. The enemy had great success in the area of the line held by the 4th Royal berks Regt who took heavy casualties. As the enemy tried to move along the trenches they were stopped by men of the 12th Battalion Y + L who filled the gaps left by the Royal Berks Regt. The enemy were prevented from breaking through completely and their attack petered out at around 2.10am.
The initial bombardment and subsequent fighting had left a scene of devastation, many men had been buried in dugouts and collapsed trenches. It was their own comrades who set about rescuing them digging with bare hands and whatever they could adapt or improvise. This raid cost the battalion 15 dead and 45 wounded.
During the raid 12-825 Pte Robert WILSON was severley wounded in his back but did not retire. Despite his wounds he remained to assist his comrades by filling ammunition magazine clips assisting his comrades to maintain their rate of fire. He was awarded the Military Medal which appeared in the London Gazette on 11th November 1916. Six other men were decorated from the same action.
Robert was evacuated to a casualty clearing station and subsequently returned to the UK on 2nd June 1916 where he was treated for his wounds at the Northumberland War Hospital. His wound is described as a Gun Shot Wound to right buttock! He was discharged to duty on 28th July 1916.
On 25th September 1916 Robert transferred to 91st Training Reserve Battalion and was attached to ‘A’ Coy, 12th Officer Cadet Battalion. On the 25th April 1917 he transferred to the 9th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant.
On the 7th June 1917 the 9th Battalion York and Lancs played a major part in the battle of Messines Ridge. They were deployed in the offensive to take Hill 60. It is most likely that Robert led a company or section during this offensive.
On the 30th June 1917 2nd Lt Robert WILSON was killed and now lies buried at the Railway Dugout Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium.
He is also remembered at St Oswalds Church, Bannerdale Road, Sheffield.
‘ And they shall be mine sayeth the Lord of hosts, In that day when I make up my jewels and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him ‘