Wilfred John May was born in South Hackney in 1895 to telegraphist John Alchin May and Clara Elizabeth Pope. Wilfred had one younger sister, Elise, born in 1898. In 1911, Wilfred was working as a junior clerk in the Docks School and living with his parents and sister at 46 Quebec Road in Ilford.
Wilfred attended Christchurch School and Ilford County High School before finishing his education at Clark’s College and gaining employment as a clerk with the Port of London Authority. In 1912, he joined the Civil Service Rifles and was on active service until the outbreak of war. He was sent for training in St. Albans, Watford, Saffron Walden, Bishop’s Stortford, Kelvedon, and Warminster, before being sent to Ireland during the republican uprising in May 1916.
The following month he arrived in France with the rank of Lance Sergeant. At some stage, he entered the H.Q. Cadet School back in England and was granted a commission with the 2nd Battalion, (Prince of Wales’s Own) West Yorkshire Regiment in February 1917. Wilfred returned to France where on 29th March 1917 he won the Military Cross for: ‘…conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led a Patrickrol in the most gallant manner, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. He set a splendid example of courage and initiative’.
Wilfred received fatal stomach wounds on the 1st August 1917 from shellfire and despite surgery he weakened and passed away the following day at No. 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station during the battle of Pilckem Ridge, Ypres, on 2nd August 1917.
Wilfred is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Research by Patrick’OMara and Redbridge Museum
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Further research by Andrew Emeny, History Teacher at ICHS
Wilfred was born on 19th March 1895 and attended Ilford County High School between 16th September 1907 and 28 July 1910. His elementary school had been the neighbouring Christchurch Road School. Whilst at Ilford County High School, he passed the Oxford Junior Local examination with 2nd Class Honours. He left in 1910 to pursue further education in a Civil Service College.
His family lived close to the school, in Balfour Road. His father, John worked as a Civil Service Telegraphist.
Wilfred is recorded on the first Roll of Honour (in the Christmas 1914 Chronicles magazine). It gives his regiments as the Civil Service Rifles.
ICHS school records and magazines
Ilford County High School started life as the Park Higher Grade School in 1901 in Balfour Road, Ilford. It was renamed Ilford County High School (or initially County High School, Ilford) in the years after the school’s management was transferred from Ilford School Board to Essex Education Committee in 1904.