Lieutenant William Wilkin


William Wilkin was born on 5 September 1890 at Glenarb, Caledon, County Tyrone, the fifth of six children of farmer Robert David Wilkin and his wife Mary Elizabeth (née Morrow). His father died of pneumonia when he was just two years old. At some time after 1901 he moved to Belfast with his family. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 13 Easton Crescent, Clifton, with his mother and three of his siblings.

Educated at the Belfast Mercantile College, Wilkin served a five-year apprenticeship to 1912 as a warehouseman to the linen and warehouse firm John Fulton & Co. He was also a talented footballer, playing outside left for Belfast club Cliftonville. He twice represented Ireland in amateur internationals against England – on 5 October 1912 and 8 November 1913.

On 24 May 1915 Wilkin enlisted in the North Irish Horse (No.1592 – later Corps of Hussars No.71461). The Sport newspaper (Dublin) noted on 29 May:

Jack Cowell, the Celtic centre, has joined the North Irish Horse at Antrim. ... On Monday last Anesley [sic], the Glentoran back, and Wilkin, the Cliftonville outside left, forsook civilian life and joined the North Irish Horse at Antrim. Of course, both the latter are amateurs, so that the only pro to join since the close of the season is the Celtic centre.

Wilkin remained at the regimental reserve depot at Antrim, unable to be sent on overseas service following a injury to his knee. According to a later report:

... in 1912 he was kicked on the right knee while playing football & was on a crutch for three months. In June 1915 [he] was thrown from a horse & he has a return of Synovitis in the same knee.

He was promoted to lance corporal on 10 April 1916.

On 21 April 1917 Wilkin applied for a commission in a garrison or labour battalion, reporting for duty at the Garrison Officer Cadet Battalion in Cambridge on 27 August. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 18 November 1917 and posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Garrison Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, at Bere Island, Bantry Bay. Soon after, however, he was posted to the 1st (Garrison) Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

On 12 May 1918 he married merchant's daughter Lyla Walker at the Donegall Square Methodist Church, Belfast.

A medical board held at Bedford on 3 September 1918 found that Wilkin was fully fit for service, his knee having completely healed, and he was ordered to report for duty at the No.2 School of Instruction at Bedford.

He was promoted to lieutenant on 18 May 1919. He relinquished his commission on completion of his service on 14 November 1919.

Wilkin died on 29 December 1969 at his home, 69 Knutsford Drive, Belfast, and was buried in the Roselawn Cemetery.


Wilkin's younger brother Thomas Alexander also served in the war, as a sergeant in the Royal Highlanders. He was awarded a Military Medal in November 1918.