Private Douglas Barker Wilkin (23) was born in 1st Qtr. 1892 in West Hampstead and was the youngest son of Joseph Benjamin and Annie Matilda Wilkin. He went to Woodford College and City of London School. In 1911 he was an insurance clerk. During the war his parents lived at “Springfield”, Vicarage Hill.
He enlisted in October 1916, and joined the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment. This Battalion took part in the The Battle of Langemarck, which was the second Allied general attack of the Third Battle of Ypres, in August 1917. Douglas Wilkin was killed in action on the 23rd August 1917 near Boesinghe, Ypres aged 27. The Southend Standard of the time said that he was buried at Langemarck, but no grave has been discovered, instead there is just a name on Panels 98 to 99 of the Tyne Cot Memorial.
He left his estate of £219 18s 5d (Worth about £11,000 in 2015) to his father. This and the soldiers effects records make it highly unlikely that he was married.
The report in the Southend Standard of 6th Sep 1917 reported that a comrade had wrote that:
His sunny disposition and nobility of character made him popular with both officers and men.
The Cambridge Daily News reported on the 5th September 1917 that in a letter to his parents received on 4th August 1917 he had said:
As you state, the war still continues, next week being the third anniversary. None will be more pleased than we shall to see the end. At the same time it is our duty to continue until Prussian militarism is once and for all overthrown and the freedom of nations secured.
The Cambridge Daily News also reported that his elder brother Sidney:
Was with his regiment, the Middlesex, in the great push on August 16th and is in hospital suffering from shell concussion. We hear he is progressing favourably.
Having both reports about their sons coming together must have been a terrible shock for their parents.
Until the renovation of the Benfleet War Memorial in 2014 he was shown as D P Wilkin on the Benfleet War Memorial as part of the B had fallen off. This was repaired after the BCA contacted Castle Point Council during the renovation.
One of our viewers, Martin Langshaw, is the keeper of the Memorial Plaque (Death Penny) for Pte D B Wilkin. It came into his family via his grandmother, Elsie Thomas, who lived in Salisbury Road, Baldock from 1910 to her death in 1987.
In 1919 she took in two lodgers who had returned from Flanders from the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment. Martin understood from her recollection that the two men were Douglas’ pals. Before leaving they gave her both the plaque and also a trench diary that Douglas had kept. Sadly,this was lost 30 years later during the chaos of World War Two. According to his grandmother it still had mud spatters on it from the trenches. He has no idea why they gave it to her, so can only presume it was too painful to visit Douglas’ mother.
Martin, like us, would like to see a picture of the man himself and is willing to talk to any family member about handing the Plaque over to them. If you are a member of the family, or know any member, then please contact Martin via us.