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Thomas Wilkinson VC

Lieutenant RNVR

The Victoria Cross


Thomas Wilkinson VC (click to enlarge in a new window - 46kb)

Thomas Wilkinson was the Master of the Li-Wo, a small river gunboat used for survey work, when the ship was seconded to the Royal Navy at Singapore, Wilkinson was made a Temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. He won the Victoria Cross when his ship attacked and sank a Japanese troop transport as part of a convoy and during this action, his ship HMS Li Wo was sunk. This ship was the most decorated small ship in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

The citation in the London Gazette of 13th December 1946 contains the following details : On 14th February, 1942, H.M.S. Li Wo, a patrol vessel of I,000 tons, formerly a passenger steamer on the Yangtse River, was on passage from Singapore to Batavia. Her company consisted of eighty-four officers and men, mainly survivors from H.M. ships and Army and Air Force units. Her armament was one 4-inch gun (with 13 practice shells) and two machine-guns. Since leaving Singapore she had beaten off four air attacks and had suffered considerable damage. Late in the afternoon she sighted two enemy convoys, the larger being escorted by Japanese fleet units, including a heavy cruiser and some destroyers. Lieutenant Wilkinson, with the unanimous backing of his mixed company, decided to engage the convoy and to fight to the last, inflicting what damage he could. He knew that his ship faced certain destruction. In the action that followed the machine-guns were used effectively, and a volunteer gun-crew fought the 4-inch gun to such purpose that they hit and set on fire a Japanese transport. After a little more than an hour, H.M.S. Li Wo was critically damaged and was sinking. Lieutenant Wilkinson decided to ram the damaged transport. It is known that this ship burned throughout the night and was probably sunk. Having ordered his ship to be abandoned, Lieutenant Wilkinson himself went down with her. Lieutenant Wilkinson's valour was equalled only by the skill with which he fought his ship. The Victoria cross is bestowed upon him posthumously in recognition of the heroism and self-sacrifice displayed not only by himself but by all who fought and died with him.

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Andy Wade (Webmaster)

Information provided by
Picture of Thomas Wilkinson VC kindly supplied by Diane Snow, relative of William Snow.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record:

In Memory of
H.M.S. Li Wo, Royal Naval Reserve
who died on
Saturday 14 February 1942 . Age 52 .

LIVERPOOL NAVAL MEMORIAL Lancashire, United Kingdom
Grave or Reference Panel Number:
Panel 1, Column 2.