A man who went on to become Nunney’s policeman was awarded a Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery by King George V at 100 years ago.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle on the 12 March 1915.
A remembrance service to mark the 100 year anniversary of his bravery, when he stormed a trench and single-handedly took 50 German prisoners, will place on Sunday 15 March at Christchurch, Frome at 2pm.
Serving members of the Grenadier Guards and our mounted officers will be in ceremonial dress. The Constabulary Mace will be carried by a guard of honour and there will be ceremonial drumming by the guardsmen attending.
After the service there will be a gathering around Wilfred’s grave and wreaths laid by the family, British Legion, NARPO (National Association of Retired Police Officers), and Assistant Chief Constable Julian Moss.
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10–13 March 1915) took place in the First World War. It was a British offensive in the Artois region of France and broke through at Neuve-Chapelle but the British were unable to exploit the success.
More troops had arrived from Britain and relieved some French troops in Flanders, which enabled a continuous British line to be formed, from Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée north to Langemarck.
Neuve Chapelle was the first set-piece offensive battle undertaken by the British from static trenchlines. Trench warfare was new to many of the soldiers and staff officers and innovations such as timed lifts of barrages and aerial reconnaissance were used here for the first time.
The battle was intended to cause a rupture in the German lines, which would then be exploited with a rush to the Aubers Ridge and possibly Lille. 40,000 Allied troops took part during the battle and suffered 7,000 British and 4,200 Indian casualties. German casualties from 9–20 March were estimated at 10,000 men.
Seeing a party of the enemy endeavouring to escape along a communication trench, Lance-Corporal Wilfred Fuller ran towards them and killed the leading man with a bomb; the remainder, nearly 50 of them, finding no means of evading his bombs, surrendered to him.
Lance-Corporal Fuller was alone at the time. He was aged 21.
A group of police officers from Avon and Somerset Constabulary self-funded a trip to Neuve Chapelle, France earlier in February. They visited the site of Wilfred Fuller’s act of bravery and laid a wreath at the Le Touret memorial to missing soldiers on behalf of Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
Lance-Corporal Wilfred Dolby Fuller was born at East Kirby, Greasley, Notts on 28 July 1893. He worked at Mansfield colliery before enlisting at Nottingham in 1911.
In November 1914 he went out to France with a draft of the Grenadier Guards and served with the 1st Battalion at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915.
Fuller was one of a group of bombers under Captain W E Nicol which also included Private Barber. They set off in different directions and worked alone. Fuller’s award was gazetted on 19 April and he received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4 June 1915.
On 30 September 1915 he was further presented with the Russian Cross of St George, also by the King. Lance-Corporal Fuller VC of the Grenadier Guards was under treatment at no.3 Base Hospital, Sheffield when the King visited it. His majesty pinned on him the Russian Order of St George at the express wish of the Tsar.
In March 1916 he married Helena May Wheeler, a nurse at the Hammersmith Hospital from Somerset. In spite of his former sporting prowess, Corporal Fuller was discharged as medically unfit on 31 October 1916.
He then joined the Somerset Police. He served at Milverton, Ilminster, Clevedon, Nunney and finally Frome where he performed his duties from Rodden Road police station. He retired from the police service on medical grounds in 1939 and took up residence in Frome.
Wilfred and Helena had two daughters and a later adopted a son. He died aged 54 on 22 November 1947 and is buried at Christ Churchyard, Frome, Somerset.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Grenadier Guards Regimental Headquarters in Wellington Barracks, Chelsea, London.