On 08/07/1916 local man Cecil Wiles was killed at Ypres, read about one woman’s devotion.
Objects from Spalding Gentlemen’s Society on Display at Charity Foundation Launch in London.
On Armistice Day 2021 Objects from the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society relating to Cecil Wiles were on display atthe Chapel Royal to be viewed by supports of the Old Talbot House Foundation for its Inaugural Lecture and formal Launch of the foundation and its website.
Louisa Evans, SGS member and trustee of the Old Talbot House Foundation explains:
As our first Lecture was on the theme of Pilgrimage the story of Cecil Wiles was very appropriate to tell. He was born in 1890, the fifth child of the Wiles’ family who lived in Leveslake Drove, West Pinchbeck. We know little of his life until 1915 when we know that after attending Church early in the year, he was presented with two white feathers, as a farmer he was reserved occupation, so did not have to fight. However, In September 1915 he enlisted, joining the newly formed 21st battalion [Yeoman Rifles] of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. Before departing for France Cecil married his girlfriend on the 15th April 1916. Ethel Cranfield was an Elementary school teacher from the village. Cecil travelled to the northern France, Southern Flanders section of the trenches.
On the 8th July 1916 he was serving in the trenches Ploegsteert Wood near Ypres [Wipers] he was selected to go on ration duty, collecting the company rations from behind the lines then returning the food to the trenches. This was a dangerous task, especially so in the summer when the evenings were lighter. That evening, whilst on ration duty, Cecil was killed by shell fire, dying instantly. Three further members of the ration party would later die of their wounds. All 4 friends are buried together in Berkshire Cemetery extension.
Following notification of his death Ethel attended one of the very early pilgrimages in 1923 to visit his grave. We also know that she visited again in 1964 as she picked and pressed a rose from in front of his headstone.
Edith remained living locally until her death in 1992, at the age of 101. She never remarried.
The Gentlemen’s society has Cecil’s medals, Death Penny and correspondence relating to his death and subsequent information from Ethel relating to her Pilgrimages to Flanders. These artifacts were displayed for attendees to the Old Talbot House Foundation to view. The picture below shows the Revd Paul Wright, Sub Dean of the Chapel Royal with the display from the Gentlemen’s society before the lecture on early Anglian Pilgrimage’s to the Western Frontdelivered by Professor Michael Snape from the University of Durham. Following the lecture, the Old Talbot House Foundation and its new website[theoldtalbothousefoundation.org.uk], was formally launched. The foundation aims to raise funds for Talbot House in Belgium, where Padre Tubby Clayton used the house of a Hop Farmer to establish a unique everyman’s club for soldiers. There was no barrier to admission, all ranks, races and religions were welcome. The house was a place where men, like Harry Patch [the last fighting Tommy] would find “an oasis of serenity in a world gone mad”. The Foundation also promotes the history of the house and Tubby through education and academic study.
We will never know if Cecil visited Talbot House, Poperinge. If he did visit the town [that the troops called little Paris] and he wanted a cup of tea, he would have in all probability visited Talbot House as they served up to 4000 cups a day to thirsty Tommy’s. Whilst there he might have taken a book from the library, handing his cap in to ensure he returned it, sat in the garden or climbed the very steep stairs to the chapel in the Hop Loft, possibly attending one of the many daily services. The organisation that developed from Talbot House in the 1920’s, the Toc H movement would go on to have branches in Spalding and West Pinchbeck. The old Methodist chapel in 6 House Bank becoming a residential centre “The Poacher’s Den” that was used for many years until its conversion to a private House.
Member of Spalding Gentlemen’s society.
Trustee of Talbot House and of the Old Talbot House Foundation