2nd Lieutenant, 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade, attached to 4th Battalion.
Died of wounds on Tuesday 4th May 1915, age 21.
Remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.
Student of coal mining.
The second son of Sir Ernest Trevelyan, Wilfred was born in Calcutta, India, in 1893 where his father was a High Court Judge. Moving back to England in 1900, Wilfred was educated at Rugby School where he was a member of the School Officer Training Corps (O.T.C).
Although passing the entrance exam to Balliol College in Oxford, Wilfred was offered employment in India subject to obtaining a degree in coal mining. Agreeing to this, he arrived at Hulme Hall in October 1912 to study at the University. Wilfred was a popular figure at Hall and the University. By 1914 he was a regular in the 1st XV rugby team and was a successful boxer, receiving University colours in both sports. Wilfred was also a keen swimmer and cricketer, playing for the Hall in inter-hall events.
Wilfred was a member of the University of Manchester O.T.C. from October 1912 to August 1914. When war broke out he applied for and received a temporary commission into the 5th Battalion The Rifle Brigade. The Rifles were a natural regiment of choice given their history of service in Asia.
In March 1915, Wilfred was posted to France and attached to the 4th Battalion, entering the war at a time where the life expectancy of a Second Lieutenant was six weeks.
Wilfred spent his first nine days in Belgium familiarising himself with the responsibilities of an infantry officer, taking his place on the front line for the first time in early April near Ypres.
April also marked the start of a series of battles known as 2nd Ypres, where the German Army tried to breakthrough the Allied trenches around the historic market town. This attack has become infamous as it was the first time that gas was used on the Western Front. Whilst not directly facing German attacks, the 4th Battalion were moved around to act as support in the event of a breakthrough.
The month of April had been a baptism of fire for Wilfred. Within 30 days he had spent 18 either on the front line or in reserve trenches, marched through Ypres as it was being shelled, been subject to gas attacks and seen tremendous losses to fellow Battalions. Two officers and 32 men were killed from the Battalion, with over 90 being wounded.
On the 3rd May, the Battalion were moved to the Eastern edge of Bellewarde Wood close to Hodge Chateau, where they were ordered to dig a second line of trenches in Sanctuary Wood. During a German bombardment of the trenches tragedy struck. The events on that day were described by Captain de Moleyns in a letter to Wilfred’s father:
“Please excuse the liberty I am taking in writing to you, but it is on behalf of your son. I knew him in the Isle of Sheppey for a short time before he was sent to France, and when I came out here again last week he was in my company. On Tuesday we had breakfast together, and shortly after that I took him up and asked him to get his men on to work at improving a communication trench. This trench was some way behind the actual fire trenches, and there had only been intermittent shell fire on it previously. I had only left him there a few minutes when the Company Sergeant-Major told me your son had been hit by a shrapnel shell. I went back at once and assisted him to the dressing station. He was very brave and cheery, and could walk with little or no support, and only complained of the pain the back, where he had been hit, and giddiness. I handed him over to the doctor and honestly thought he would be alright. It was only early on yesterday morning, when I was in the fire trenches, that I heard he had died early in the morning. He has been buried close to the remains of Hooge Chateau, about four miles due east of Ypres. Will you please permit me to offer you my most sincere sympathy on your bereavement, and to say that I have lost a real friend and a most gallant and willing brother officer?”