Robert Saxby Wilson was just 19 years of age when he died on the 20th October 1918. He was the Son of Robert and Emma J. Wilson of Mill Lane, Kirkstead. His parents received the news of their sad loss by receipt of a letter from Capt. R.W. Crabtree, whom we presume was Robert’s platoon/company officer. Prior to the war, Robert was in business with his half brother, John Wilson, as boot and shoe dealers, Station Road, Woodhall Spa.
After enlistment, Robert found himself in the 8th Battalion of The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales Own). Formed in 1908 as part of the double battalion raised from the old Leeds Rifles, in the Great War it was part of the 49th and then 62nd divisions on the Somme. It fought on the Marne and in the battle for the Hindenburg Line.
The battalion war diary for the period records the 8th as being in billets at Quievy, “prior to moving forward in the morning (at about 03.50 hours) for the operations of the 20th Inst. At 0700 hours (on the 20th) the battalion attacked on the south of Solesmes in conjunction with 2/4 Yorks and Lancs and 2/20 London Regiments”. The 8th were to follow the initial attack of the 2/4th Yorks & Lancs, their objective being a factory and its surrounding ground. A & D Companies were to lead with B & C passing through. As A & D Companies left their trenches, very little opposition was met, until they reached the factory. Here, the enemy put up a very strong defence with machine guns. A Company, however, managed to get around the enemy and after a little engagement managed to capture 130 prisoners with guns and equipment. This relieved the situation allowing D Company to gain their objective. A & D both then pushed on some 200 yards clear of the factory. B & C Companies were following, clearing up as they came. B Company suffered heavily from shellfire and still more machine gun opposition. C Company, however, fared better, and managed to keep in touch with the 2 leading companies. The final objective was captured at about 10.00am and a line of defensive posts were established. Casualties for the day were 2 Officers wounded; other ranks 12 killed; 74 wounded and 11 missing. The bulk of the casualties were from B Company. The battalion held their position until relieved, on the 21st October, by the Gordon Highlanders.