Corporal (Walter) Ernest Wilson, MM


Walter Ernest Wilson was born on 4 May 1898 at 17 Chrystal Street, Ballymacarrett, Belfast, the first of five children of salesman James Irwin Thomson Wilson and his wife Margaret (nee McClure). By 1916 he was living with his family at 37 Lomond Avenue, Belfast, and working as a clerk.

Wilson enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 21 November 1916, six months after his eighteenth birthday (No.2314). He embarked for France on 24 April 1917, where he joined either the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

In September that year the 2nd Regimentwas dismounted and most of its men, together with some from the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – subsequently named the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Wilson, like most of the men, was transferred on 20 September. He was given the number 41197 and posted to D Company.

Wilson saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

On 28 December 1917 Wilson was one of 24 former North Irish Horsemen to transfer from the 9th Battalion to the Tank Corps (No.304882). He was posted for training to the Tank Corps Depot at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset, where he joined the 15th Battalion.

Wilson embarked for France with his battalion on 8 July 1918. He took part in the first and second days of the Battle of Amiens on 8 and 9 August. On the 8th his tank, a Mark V* named Oman-ama, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Herington, had mechanical trouble and was forced to return to the starting point. On the second day his unit (A2 Group) was ordered to help Australian troops seize two villages, Vauxvillers and Framerville. Wilson's tank was knocked out beyond the Blue Line and Herington was wounded. According to the Battalion's history, "this Tank put up a good fight and two of the crew were awarded the Military Medal, for their gallantry."

Wilson was one of the two men so honoured. According to a later report in the Belfast News-Letter:

The Tank crew of which [Wilson] was a member was gassed while attacking the enemy near Vauvillers on 9th August, 1918. Although slightly gassed himself he stopped the tank, got the crew out, and took up a position with a machine gun, firing on the enemy until the rest of the crew became unconscious, two of them being wounded and the officer badly burned. Private Wilson also received the Tank Corps parchment certificate in recognition of his good work and soldierly conduct. While serving with the 15th Battalion Tank Corps in France he won a medal for cross-country running. His younger brother has just been demobilised.

Wilson was made acting lance corporal on 6 September and corporal on 23 November 1918. On 10 May 1919 he left France and was posted to a Tank Corps depot in England. He was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 17 October 1919.

In June 1924 Wilson wrote to the authorities for a copy of his military record "as I am about to leave for the United States of America".