109037 PTE. F. HICKLIN. SHER.FOR.
Frank Hicklin was born on 23 April 1899 in Chipstead, Surrey and baptised at Chipstead St Margaret on 7 May. His father was also Frank Hicklin (b. 1870 in Wood Green, Middlesex), a railway locomotive driver. His mother was Louisa Shawyer (b. 1870 in Winchester). The men in the Hicklin family worked on the railways and often moved around the country with their jobs. Frank snr had moved to Winchester by about 1890 and he and Louisa were married there in 1892. They had 12 chidren, 11 of whom survived infancy: Emily (b. 1892), George (b. 1894), Hugo (1895-1905), William (b. 1897), then Frank, followed by Ellen (b. 1900), Clara (b. 1901), James (b. 1903), John (b. 1906), Hannah (b. 1908), and finally Tom (b. 1911). The Hicklin family lived in the Midlands, then Plymouth/Devonport before moving to Lostock Hall in 1907, when they lived first at 9 Hope Terrace, then by 1917 at 8 Albert Place. This is where they were living when Frank jnr enlisted in May 1917, just after his 18th birthday. He was 5’ 2” tall and weighed 110lbs. At the time, he was working as a weaver in one of the mills.
Frank was initially assigned service number 60853 and posted to 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Manchester Regiment. He completed his training with the Manchesters and was sent to France on 30 March 1918 and initially posted to 20Bn Manchester Regiment but on 4 April 1918 he was assigned a new service number, 109037, and posted to 1Bn Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters). 1Bn came under orders of 24th Brigade in 8th Division.
The Germans had launched Operation Michael on 21 March 1918 but despite significant advances they failed to take their two major objectives – Arras and Amiens – and by 5 April they had abandoned this campaign.
At the beginning of March, 1Bn had been at Wieltje, near Ypres, but they were then withdrawn and spent much of that month in billets at Zudausques, near St Omer in France. On 21 March, when the German Spring Offensive was launched, they were moved quickly to St-Christ-Briost, on the River Somme, between St Quentin and Amiens. St-Christ was the location of a bridge over the river which had been partially destroyed. In heavy fighting on 24-25 March, the Germans initially managed to cross, but were first repulsed until on 26 March they succeeded in crossing the river and 1Bn were forced back, first to Vermandovillers then to Pozières. On 27 March the Bn counterattacked at Harbonnières but the following day they were ordered to withdraw to Rosières. After a brief spell defending the line at Moreuil, the Bn was relieved by French troops and withdrew to billets at Hangest on 4 April. Imagine if you can what it would be like for the 18-year old Frank Hicklin when he arrived in this camp the following day. It must have been terrifying.
The Bn spent the following week in training and reorganisation and then on 13 April they moved into corps reserve at Querrieu, northeast of Amiens and from there on 16 April to Blangy-Tronville. From 19-23 April, the Bn was in trenches, holding the line near Villers-Bretonneux. On 24 April, they were ordered to attack the village of Villers-Bretonneux and when they entered the Bois-L’Abbé they found the trenches had been abandoned by the Germans and they took up position there. No further specific action is recorded in the War Diary for 25 April, though CWGC records 18 officers and men from 1Bn being killed that day. Frank Hicklin was killed on 25 April, just 2 days after his 19th birthday.
Service No: 109037
Date of Death: 25/04/1918
Regiment/Service: Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 52 to 54.
Memorial: POZIERES MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Frank and Louisa Hicklin, of 8 Albert Place, Tardy Gate, Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancs.
The Hicklin family records contain a number of conundrums. Frank and Louisa seem to have been somewhat unimaginative in their selection of names for their boys. According to the 1911 Census (filled in by Frank snr), Frank (jnr) had two older brothers: George (b. third quarter of 1893 in Winchester) and William (b. first quarter of 1897 in Rugby). In fact, George’s full name (according to the Civil Registration Birth Index) was William George Osborne, and William was William Osborne. Oddly, both boys are recorded as being baptised on the same day (17 January 1897) at Barby, Northamptonshire. In the baptismal records they are George Osborne and William Osborne respectively. Osborne is a recurring name in the Hicklin family, indeed, William’s grandfather who died in January 1897 was William Osborne Hicklin (b. 1823 in Rotherby, Leicestershire, d. 1897 in Basford, Nottinghamshire). It’s not clear why the boys who were born three years apart would be baptised on the same day, but their parents repeated the custom with their firstborn Emily who was born in 1892 in Winchester but wasn’t baptised until 1898 (the year AFTER her younger brothers). William George appears as just George in both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses. In the 1911 Census, George, aged 17, is working as a fireman in a laundry (this is relevant). William, aged 14, is an errand lad in the laundry.
Naval records contain information about a William Osborne Hicklin. The record shows him as born in Winchester on 24 October 1892, and his mother as Louisa (Hicklin) of 8 Albert Place, Lostock Hall.
Further records show the same date of birth and that William enlisted in August 1911, and that his occupation is laundry fireman.
If this William is Louisa’s son, his date of birth can’t be October 1892, since Louisa gave birth to her first daughter Emily in the third quarter of 1892 (between July and September).
My conclusion is that the William Osborne Hicklin in the Navy records is the same person as the George Hicklin who is recorded in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, and that for some reason he lied about his date of birth when he enlisted in the navy – although in August 1911, William George was 18 so old enough to enlist – and he chose to use William rather than George as his first name If all the above is correct, William George Osborne Hicklin was living in Lostock Hall from about 1907 to 1911 and he served in the Navy from 1911 to 1921 when he died on active service, aged 27, and he should therefore be included on the South Ribble War Memorial. Final confirmation is to be found in the National Probate Register, which confirms the date and circumstances of his death and records his name as George William Hicklin, and his next of kin as Frank and Louisa Hicklin of 8 Albert Place, Lostock Hall.
CWGC records his details as:
Rank: Leading Stoker
Service No: K/12306
Date of Death: 20/01/1921
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy, H.M. S/M "K5."
Panel Reference: 32.
Memorial: CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL
H.M. Submarine “K5” was the Pandora. She sank in exercises in the Bay of Biscay on 20 January 1921. “K” class submarines were notoriously unstable as they were heavier at the bow than the stern so any steep dive was extremely risky. All 57 officers and men were drowned.