b. 02/02/1897 Stockport, Cheshire. d. 03/01/1982 Stockport, Cheshire.
Wilfred Wood (1897-1982) was born in Stockport, Cheshire, on 2nd February 1897 at 25 Adcroft Street. After the death of his father, he moved to 52 Chester Road, Hazel Grove, near Stockport, where his mother married again, becoming Mrs Daniels. Wilf was educated at Norbury Church of England School. He was a regular member of the Norbury Church congregation and a member of the local football club. After leaving school he got a job with the railways on his 17th birthday in February 1914 and was employed at the Edgeley sheds on the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) as a shed cleaner.
Nearly three years later, he enlisted in December 1916 as a stretcher-bearer, but soon transferred to the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers. He had joined the Army with two colleagues from Edgeley sheds. He began training at Oswestry and he became a stretcher-bearer with the Cheshire Regiment after he left for France, but later was posted to Italy with the 10th Northumberlands. They left France in November 1917, and was part of the 23rd Division.
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.
After the announcement of his VC in November 1918, the residents of Hazel Grove and Bramhall Union District agreed to club together and present their local hero with a testimonial. On 19th December, after being decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace and accompanied by his fiancée, Bessie, from Toronto Street, he arrived home at Edgeley Station by train in the early evening. He then went to a public reception in Hazel Grove. Wood was demobilised in 1919 and returned to the LNWR, where he was promoted to fireman, and later trained as a driver in Newton Heath, Manchester. In July 1919, he married Bessie at St George’s Church, Stockport. In 1920 he attended the VC Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and the ceremony at the Cenotaph in November that year. He also attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords in 1929.
He would also attend the VE Parade and dinner at The Dorchester in 1946, the VC Centenary at Hyde Park in June 1956 and the first two VCGCA Reunion Dinners. He retired from the railways on 27th August 1960 when supervisor at the Longsight railway shed. He had completed 46 years’ service with the LNWR, which later became the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). He attended a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on 17th July 1962, the banquet in the evening at the Mansion House and the third VC/GC Dinner the following day. In September 1967, he attended the funeral of John Christie VC at Stockport Crematorium.
He celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary in July 1969 and was presented with a telegram of congratulations from the local council and flowers for Bessie. In July 1974 a LNWR engine was named “Private Wilfred Wood VC”, and, although he had previously travelled in it, he never drove it. When interviewed by a local newspaper in November 1975, he said of his VC: “The medal means a lot to me…I wouldn’t part with it for anything, but I’m in a fortunate position, so I don’t need to sell it.”
His wife died in 1976. Apart from his interest in railways, Wilf was also a Freemason, and he occasionally would attend Lodge meetings with his son. In the late 1970s, his health began to fail and he suffered a slight stroke as well as cataracts in both eyes. At the age of 84, he died in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, on 3rd January 1982. He left one son, Harry, and two grandchildren. In his will he left £42,205 gross.
Wood was cremated at Stockport Crematorium on 8th January and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. His engine nameplate was left to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum at Alnwick Castle. His medals including the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 are not publicly held. In September 2010 a Wetherspoons pub was opened in London Road, Hazel Grove, Cheshire and named “The Wilfred Wood”.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: STOCKPORT CREMATORIUM, STOCKPORT, CHESHIRE.
David Sykes – Image of the Wilfred Wood VC Train at Manchester Piccadilly Station.
Brian Drummond – Image of the Wood VC name on the Freemasons Memorial London.