New plaque unveiled commemorating Wigan soldier

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Veronica Ashton

A commemoration honouring a Wigan soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross after rescuing a wounded colleague under hail of enemy fire has been unveiled.

Lance Corporal Thomas Woodcock, originally from Scholes was awarded the highest military medal just over 100 years ago after demonstrating extreme bravery in World War One.

To recognise his sacrifice, Wigan Council has improved the access to the commemoration outside Woodock House in Scholes, which was also named after the soldier.

Veronica Ashton, Thomas Woodcock’s grandaughter, welcomed the improved commemoration after she visited the site today.

A new flagstone with a standing platform, complete with re-planted poppy seeds now sits outside the high-rise near to the glass mosaic sculpture already in situ, which was created in his name by school children at St. Patrick’s Catholic Primary in 2017. Lighting will be installed next week.

The work comes following feedback that the existing flagstone, which can be found on Woodcock Walk (a footpath accessible via steps) cannot be easily accessed by those with mobility issues.

As a result, the council agreed to install paving and a further plaque outside the high-rise and will keep a book of remembrance at Wigan Life Centre for visitors and residents to sign in Lance Corporal Woodcock’s honour.

Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure at Wigan Council said: “Remembering the courage and bravery of the fallen and ensuring that everybody has access to commemorative sites is extremely important.

“The exceptional gallantry of Thomas Woodcock is one that deserves significant recognition and we welcomed the idea to make improvements to the existing mural.”

Terry Atherton, originally from Wigan but now residing in Canada, has been heavily involved in the decision to improve and add to the commemoration outside Woodcock House.

He said: “It’s really important that people who struggle with mobility still have the opportunity to see commemorations like this.

“I think it’s great that the council honoured Thomas Woodcock VC but I thought that accessibility could be improved.

“The council have been receptive to my ideas and they have made the changes quite quickly, the result is fantastic.”

As part of the World War One centenary commemorations between 2014 and 2018, Wigan Council pledged to name streets after soldiers from Wigan Borough who were awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross.

In 2018, 100 years after Lance Corporal Woodcock was awarded the medal, the local authority held a ceremony on the footpath in front of 166-174 Hardybutts where Woodcock Walk and the commemorative flagstone were officially unveiled by his family.

Mr Tilley continued: “There were four soldiers in World War One and one soldier in World War Two in Wigan Borough who have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Naming streets after them is a great way for their legacy to live on for years to come.”

Wigan Council’s commitment to the armed forces community was recently acknowledged with a Silver ‘Employer Recognition’ award from the Ministry of Defence.