The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster
 

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Percy Walter Wilks

WILKS, Percy Walter

Percy Walter Wilks was born in Dalston in the Borough of Hackney, London in 1877. He was the second of the six children of Ezra Tomkins Wilks and Emma Nash, both of whom were active in the Wesleyan Methodist community. Ezra was a successful Coal Merchant and Percy was sent to the Methodist Leys School for Boys in Cambridge. In 1901 the family was living at Ashlyns, Clarendon Road in Watford and Percy had joined the family business, giving his occupation as ‘Clerk to Colliery Agent’, his father being the ‘Colliery Agent’.

In November 1901 Percy applied for admission to the Freedom of the City of London, in the Company of Wheelwrights. His business premises as a Coal Factor were at 29 Coal Exchange, Lower Thames Street. Unfortunately the records do not show if he was accepted or not.  In 1905 he married Edith Catherine Francis, the daughter of a Fruit Merchant, in Bromley in Kent, and they settled in Barnet, not far from Watford. A son, Walter Hugh, was born in 1907, and a daughter Enid in 1910. In the 1911 census Percy declared himself a ‘Coal Merchant’ and a second daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1916.

The records do not show when Percy Wilks enlisted in the Army Service Corps as a Second Lieutenant, an obvious fit for his business experience. The A.S.C. was responsible for organising the food, equipment and ammunition for the war and some supplies would have come from Ireland. It is not known exactly why he had been in Ireland, or why he was accompanied on RMS Leinster by his wife on the 10th of October 1918.

Percy Walter WilksNeither Percy nor Edith survived the sinking but both their bodies were recovered. They were buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin, in the Wesleyan Officers Plot. Percy was buried on the 14th of October, the day a large number of soldiers were interred in Grangegorman, with full military honours. Edith was buried on the 18th and a note on the cemetery records seems to read ‘re-opened’, implying that her body was recovered some days later.

Photo of Wilks Family, with children, Hugh and Edith, and baby, Dorothy. Courtesy John Toler

 

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