Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Honored Allies Wednesday: Thomas Wilkinson (UK)

"On I4th February, 1942, H.M.S. Li Wo, a patrol vessel of 1,000 tons, formerly a passenger steamer on the Upper Yangtse River, was on passage from Singapore to Batavia.  Her ship's company consisted of eighty-four officers and men, including one civilian; they were mainly survivors from His Majesty's Ships which had been sunk, and a few from units of the Army and the Royal Air Force.  Her armament was one 4 inch gun, for which she had only thirteen practice shells, and two machine guns.  Since leaving Singapore the previous day, the ship had beaten off four air attacks, in one of which fifty-two machines took part, and had suffered considerable damage.  Late in the afternoon, she sighted two enemy convoys, the larger of which was escorted by Japanese naval units, including a heavy cruiser and some destroyers.  The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant T. Wilkinson, R.N.R., gathered his scratch ship's company together and told them that, rather than try to escape, he had decided to engage the convoy and to fight to the last, in the hope that he might inflict damage upon the enemy.  In making this decision, which drew resolute support from the whole ship's company, Lieutenant Wilkinson knew that his ship faced certain destruction, and that his own chances of survival were small.  H.M.S Li Wo hoisted her battle ensign and made straight for the enemy.  In the action which followed, the machine guns were used with effect upon the crews of all ships in range, and a volunteer gun's crew manned the 4 inch gun, which they fought with such purpose that a Japanese transport was badly hit and caught fire.  After a little over an hour, H.M.S Li Wo had been critically damaged and was sinking.  Lieutenant Wilkinson then decided to ram his principal target, the large transport, which had been abandoned by her crew.  It is known that this ship burnt fiercely throughout the night following the action, and was probably sunk.  H.M.S. Li Wo's gallant fight ended when her shells spent, and under heavy fire from the enemy cruiser, Lieutenant Wilkinson finally ordered abandon ship. He himself remained on board, and went down with her.  There were only about ten survivors, who were later made prisoners of war.  Lieutenant Wilkinson's valor was equaled only by the skill with which he fought his ship.  The VC is bestowed upon him posthumously in recognition both of his own heroism and self-sacrifice, and of that of all who fought and died with him"

From Lt. Wilkinson's Victoria Cross citation, awarded December 17, 1946.

May you be at peace,


Memorial in Victoria Park, Widnes

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