Wigan Soldier’s Memorial Made More Accessible After Mobility Concerns

Thursday, November 21st, 2019 5:07pm

By Niall Griffiths - Local Democracy Reporter

Terry Atherton, Tom Walsh (local historian), Veronica Ashton, Mark Tilley

A plaque honouring a soldier from Wigan awarded the highest military medal has been made more accessible for visitors with mobility issues.

Scholes-born Lance Corporal Thomas Woodcock received the Victoria Cross just over a century ago after rescuing a wounded colleague under heavy enemy fire.

His sacrifice was commemorated with a flagstone outside Woodcock House, which was also named in his honour, but it could only be viewed by climbing steps.

Wigan council has now installed a new flagstone on a standing platform which sits alongside a glass mosaic, which was created by pupils at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary in 2017.

New paving will also allow those with mobility issues to get a closer look at the memorial. A book of remembrance will also be kept at Wigan Life Centre for those wanting to sign in LCpl Woodcock’s honour.

Terry Atherton, originally from Wigan but now residing in Canada, has been heavily involved in the decision to improve and add to the commemoration outside Woodcock House.

“It’s really important that people who struggle with mobility still have the opportunity to see commemorations like this,” he said.

“I think it’s great that the council honoured Thomas Woodcock VC but I thought that accessibility could be improved.

“The council have been receptive to my ideas and they have made the changes quite quickly, the result is fantastic.”

Veronica Ashton, LCpl Woodcosk’s granddaughter, has also welcomed the improved commemoration after she visited the site earlier this week.

The actions that earned LCpl Perkins a Victoria Cross occurred while he was serving with the Irish Guards in Belgium in late 1917.

He had safely crossed a river when the cries of a fellow soldier led him to wade back into the stream to help while shells crashed around him.. 

Despite the carnage, LCpl Perkins retrieved his colleague and carried him across open ground in broad daylight while gunfire erupted around him.

LCpl Perkins was awarded the Victoria Cross and returned home to a hero’s welcome in March 1918. Days later he left to fight in France but was killed in action by the month’s end.

Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure at Wigan council said: “Remembering the courage and bravery of the fallen and ensuring that everybody has access to commemorative sites is extremely important.

 “The exceptional gallantry of Thomas Woodcock is one that deserves significant recognition and we welcomed the idea to make improvements to the existing mural.”

As part of the First World War centenary commemorations between 2014 and 2017, Wigan council pledged to name streets after soldiers from the borough who were awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross.

There were four local recipients during the First World War and another in the Second World War.

Last year, the local authority held a ceremony near 166-174 Hardbutts where Woodcock Walk and the commemorative flagstone were officially unveiled by his family.

Mr Tilley added: “Naming streets after them is a great way for their legacy to live on for years to come.”

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