Historic plaque ‘staying in the family’

The war medal found by antique dealer Adam Chapman and a picture of his great-great uncle Francis James Wilso
The war medal found by antique dealer Adam Chapman and a picture of his great-great uncle Francis James Wilso

AN antique dealer has unearthed a historic artefact he could never part with as it has links close to his heart.

Adam Chapman, of Hartlepool-based Harland Military Antiques, came into the possession of a death plaque presented to his family after his great-great-uncle, Francis James Wilson, was killed just three weeks before the end of the First World War.

Adam said his great-uncle’s military performance suffered after he was wounded in 1916.

He had pay docked for various rule-breaking, and was also detained after returning late from leave.

Private Wilson was just 37 when he died, on October 10, 1918, in Berlaimont, in France.

He was a member of the 13th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry and had signed up for the Army aged 33 in 1914.

He lived in Richardson Street, in Hartlepool, and his parents were Robert and Mary Wilson.

Adam, 25, who runs the town centre-based antique dealers with Andy Glover, 28, said: “He would have been entitled to the 1914 and 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.

“These were sent to my family but they have got lost.

“I came across the plaque after cleaning out my granddad Gilbert’s house when he died.

“I’m just going to keep it in the family.”

Adam, whose stepfather Peter Gainey, 66, is the son of the late Irene Gainey, Private Wilson’s niece, said his great-great-uncle first arrived in France on August 25, 1915 and he got wounded on April 29, 1916.

On December 6 that year, he was docked three days’ pay for being “improperly dressed” and on April 5, 1917 he was docked one day’s wage for not wearing his hat.

On June 26, 1917, the soldier lost three days’ pay after “refusing to work the party order”, which Adam thinks could have seen his great-great-uncle refusing to dig a trench or carry something through the lines.

He was granted five days’ leave in August 1917, but returned back to camp late and was given five days detention and lost 21 days pay.

Adam said: “It’s quite sad as it seems he has been fine in Army life, but after he got wounded it affected him quite a bit.

“He could have been shellshocked and never got over it.”