IMPORTANT UPDATE 30/3/2020
THE TOM WILKINSON VC STATUE APPEAL COMMITTEE
It is with some sadness and disappointment that the Committee had to take the decision to close down the Tom Wilkinson Statue Appeal. Tom was the only man from Widnes to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WW2 and it was our wish, and the wish of many, that the statue would be erected both in his honour and to those service people who have entered a situation knowing lives would be lost. Having two statues previously erected in the …Borough – Todger Jones, VC DCM and Tom Mottershead, VC DCM, this was to be the final statue of this incredible journey.
We have been contacting our main supporters and donors over the last 4 weeks and they have all agreed with our decision. We had to take the decision due to being put in a position where we are unable to apply for the main WREN grant for the appeal. Whilst our fundraising efforts play their part, the main funding for the two previous statues, came from WREN. This year Halton Borough Council are going to apply for the grant to fund other areas and we therefore have no funding sources left to tap into. To date 98% of our donations have come from outside Widnes, therefore we also conclude that our desire for a statue is not the desire of the local people. Finally, we emailed all HBC Councillors last year to ascertain what their interest was; the response was virtually nil which confirmed our opinion that overall local support and interest in this project was clearly absent.
Although we will not be able to procure a statue, WE WILL remember him. Through a local stonemason, we have ordered a large black granite stone, from India, it will be laser etched in Manchester and then transported to Widnes for engraving. This will be a fitting memorial to this brave man. We will provide information and photographs of final stone when it is in situ, wherever that maybe.
Cdre. PHIL WATERHOUSE
BILL ANDERSON MNM
HONORARY PATRON:- Billy Billingham MBE Ex SAS
COMMITTEE AND TRUSTEES :- Tony Miller, Chris Stapleton.
Tom’s early life was a tough one, as was with everyone in those days. His father didn’t “spare the rod” on his children. His father, William Wilkinson was a ships Master on local river work, Northwich, Runcorn, Widnes, Liverpool and no doubt other areas.William would have expected his sons to have follow him into the family business, as a waterman working on the river Mersey.When Tom left West Bank School Oakland street at the age of 14, he went to work on the river full time. He worked with his father on the river. Sometime later he joined the Merchant Navy, this took him to sea, away from home.
When war was declared on 4th August 1914 Tom served right through this war as a merchant seaman ferrying troops to France, and crossing the Atlantic Ocean bringing food products and raw materials to this country.
In March 1918 his ship was torpedoed, but managed to limp back to port.
After the War he continued to be a Merchant seaman, working for the Blue Funnel line.
His travels were to the far east, mainly China. Eventually Tom became a qualified Master and worked for the Hong Kong company Jardine Indo-China Steam Navigation.
This work involved working around the China coast and the East indies. He was given a ship to command, the Hang Sang. Later on he was given Li Wo an upper Yangtse river steam passenger ferry.
He made several trips back to his home in West Bank, during one of his visits in 1939 War broke out, he returned to the far east, at this point Japan hadn’t joined the War, so there wasn’t any direct threat from them.
He was seconded into the Royal Naval Reserve (R.N.R.), which he was given an honorary rank of Lieutenant, at the same time as the Li Wo was requisitioned on December 8, 1941 as a patrol vessel, she was fitted with an old WW1 Japanese 4 inch gun, which was located on a platform below the bridge and two Vickers machine guns mid ship.