Mary Wilkinson (née Marshall and usually known as Molly) died in Winchester in 1983 at the age of 90. Mary had originally enlisted in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in 1912. On the outbreak of the First World War she was initially refused permission by the British Authorities to go to Belgium and so it was under the jurisdiction of the Belgian Government that she made her way across the Channel.
Her medals, testament to her work during the war, are displayed in the museum’s Medal Room alongside those of her husband, Captain Wilkinson. Few FANYs, let alone women, were decorated with the Military Medal, an award earned while she was based at the hospital at Marquise in the grounds of the 1st Aeroplane Supply Depot. This location saw the most devastating German aerial attack of the war on an aviation facility. The citation for her Military Medal states “For gallantry and coolness during a bombing raid by hostile aircraft….she displayed the utmost disregard of danger, attending many serious wound cases which required skilful and immediate assistance.”
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Mrs Drury of Richmond visited the museum to tell us about Jack Morley, her great uncle. Jack Morley was one of nine children of a hill farmer in Weardale, County Durham and a keen athlete. In 1914 he lived in Toronto, Canada whither he had emigrated and worked as a cabinet maker. When war broke out he returned to England, to his mother’s great joy, to join up in the Durham Light Infantry. One of his five brothers was Customs and Exciseman for Swaledale and Wensleydale, based in Richmond, near Catterick Camp where Jack did some training. Jack would ride over to Richmond to visit and would tie up his horse in the garden to the great delight of his nieces! Jack served in the 1915-1917 Salonica Campaign in northern Greece, at the time that city was badly burned. Jack organized the transport of supplies, mainly by mules through the hills up to the Struma Front. His height was 6’3” and together with his high-heeled riding boots and his high officer’s helmet, he made a commanding figure in securing the co-operation of the locals! In his time off he enjoyed shooting in the nearby Vardar Estuary marshes and brought home fine striped woollen socks run through with silver thread. The stamps from the postcards he sent home are still in a family stamp collection.
Jennifer Bullen visited the museum to show us the memorial plaque to Lt Henry Stanley Tempest Bullen, her father-in-laws elder brother. Harry Bullen of ‘D’ Battery, 251st Brigade of the Royal Field Arilltery was Killed in Action on 14th April 1917 during the Battle of Arras (an action launched in support and as a diversionary action to the larger French offensive on the Chemin des Dames). He died at the age of 20 and is buried south of Arras at Beaurains Road Cemetery, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. His mother, Edith Bullen lived in Gosforth, Northumberland. A memorial window to Lt Bullen was erected in St Nicholas Church, Gosforth following the war.
Gerald Burnett visited the museum to relate the story of his grandfather Ernest Wyatt Burnett. My Grandfather, Ernest Wyatt Burnett was born in Chudleigh, Devonshire, in 1886. After minimal schooling and several agricultural jobs, Ernest moved to London and became a chauffeur with various employers including Thomas Tilling. He spent the pre-war years driving around Great Britain with American tourists and contemporary industrialists such as Tommy Lipton of tea fame. Ernest enlisted with the Royal Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Branch, in April 1915 and became a Staff Car driver. In 1915, the Government appointed five official Western Front War Correspondents, Philip Gibbs, Percival Phillips, H. Perry Robinson, W. Beach Thomas and Herbert Russell. Ernest was assigned to be their driver, a position he held until the end of the war. Ernest was transferred to the Reserve in February 1919. Alongside his ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ decorations he was awarded a Silver Medal for Merit by Nicholas I, King of Montenegro. During WW2, Ernest served with the Home Guard at Balcombe Place, his Sussex home, where he was chauffeur to Lady Gertrude Denman who was President of the Women’s Institute and Honorary Director of The Women’s Land Army. My Grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He served his country, survived two World Wars, and lived a full and interesting life.