Hero policeman’s role in the Great War

To mark 100 years since the First World War, and in the lead up to Remembrance Day, Cheshire Constabulary will be highlighting the officers who were conscripted to serve – some of whom gave their lives for their country.

John Wilson

Police Constable 430 John Wilson was born at Oakmere, in 1890.

He joined Cheshire Constabulary on 16th November 1912 having previously been employed as a tyre maker.

After training he was posted to Wilmslow and in February 1914 he was transferred to Crewe. He resigned from the force in December 1914 to join the Army and enlisted as a Private in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and fought on the Western Front. In 1917, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and joined 12th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

By October 1918 he had been promoted to Captain and was fighting in Italy with British, Italian, French and American Divisions to push the Austro-Hungarian army out of Italy. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Italian War Merit Cross for his gallantry during the crossing of the River Piave in northern Italy on 27-28 October 1918 – this was one of the final battles of World War 1 which saw 30,000 of the enemy killed and over 400,000 taken prisoner.

The citation for the award of the Military Cross reads: “At the forcing of the River Piave on 27th October 1918 and the following day, this Officer commanded his Company with the most conspicuous gallantry.

“On the first day, especially, when his Company was subjected to very heavy machine gun fire he repeatedly rallied his men and kept them under perfect control. In particular just before reaching his objective, which was very strongly held by the enemy, he rallied and re-organised his Company and personally led the charge which resulted in the capture of the objective and over 200 prisoners and several machine guns.

“But for Captain Wilson’s splendid initiative, leadership and personal courage, the casualties to his men would have been very severe, and the success of the whole attack endangered.”

John continued in the Army for sometime after the war and did not return to the police. He died in 1954.