Wilkinson enlisted in the Royal Scots Greys at the outbreak of war in 1914 and transferred the following year to the 2nd. Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders. He finally transferred to the 1/5th Manchester Regiment and went to France in July 1916.
He was 21 years old, and a private in the 1/5th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, British Army during the Battle of the Selle in the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Venture capital. On 20 October 1918 at Marou, France, during the attack, four runners had been killed in attempting to deliver a message to the supporting company and Private Wilkinson volunteered for the duty.
He succeeded in delivering the message although the journey involved exposure to extremely heavy machine-gun and shell fire for 600 yards. He showed magnificent courage and complete indifference to danger and throughout the remainder of the day continued to do splendid work.
Wilkinson was killed in a mining accident at Bickershaw Colliery, Leigh where he died from carbon monoxide poisoning.