The cricketer who won the Grand National
Born at Gilling East, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, in 1889, John Philip Wilson left Harrow before getting into the XI. However, in 1911 he was called up to the Yorkshire nets at Headingley, and later played a number of matches for the county side, with a top score of 36 against Middlesex at Bradford. He also took one wicket - that of Bill Hitch, the Surrey and England allrounder. He played several more times for the 2nd XI, although most of his cricket was confined to the country-house scene, in particular for the Yorkshire Gentlemen.
In June 1914, he obtained his pilot's licence on a Vickers biplane at Brooklands. On the outbreak of war he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Air Service, and in April, 1915 it was reported that he and another officer "had observed two submarines lying alongside the Mole at Zeebrugge, had attacked them, dropping four bombs, it was believed with successful results".
On June 7 the same year the Admiralty again reported that "this morning at 2.30am, an attack was made on the airship shed at Evere, north of Brussels, by Flight-Lieutenants J.P. Wilson RN and J.S. Mills RN. Bombs were dropped and the shed was observed to be in flames. It is not known whether a zeppelin was inside, but the flames reached a great height, coming out from both sides of the shed. Both pilots returned safely."
A few days later, on June 21, the Admiralty announced that the King had been graciously pleased to award the Distinguished Service Cross to both Wilson and Mills "for their services on June 7, 1915, when after a long flight in darkness over hostile territory, they threw bombs on the zeppelin shed at Evere near Brussels, and destroyed a zeppelin which was inside. The two officers were exposed to heavy anti-aircraft fire during the attack" (London Gazette June 21, 1915).
At the Yorkshire AGM in 1916, Lord Hawke said of Wilson, "May he continue his splendid work, and be with us when we again resume hostilities on the cricket field." In the county yearbook for that year there is a photograph of him dressed in naval uniform.
He was later awarded the Belgian Order of the Crown (LG Aug 29, 1917), and in the New Year's Honours for 1919 he was awarded the AFC, "in recognition of distinguished service" (LG Jan 1, 1919).
After the War he continued to play club cricket, while in the winter he made his name as an amateur steeplechase jockey. During his career he rode over 200 winners, and rode three times in the Grand National, winning in 1925 on a horse called Double Chance. In 1915 he married Louisa Harrison-Broadley, whose elder sister had married the former England captain the Hon. FS Jackson, who thus became his brother-in-law.