16 October 2011

Thomas Wickham

Thomas Wickham (born 23 August 1888, Newtown, NSW, died 22 Feb 1973, Waverley, NSW) was my great great uncle. He was the brother of my Great Nanna.

Thomas was an officer in the NSW Police. I looked up the Registers of Police while I was at State Records the other week. Thomas' service number was 9094. He was accepted into the foot police i.e. not mounted, he was 5'11", 12st 2lbs, blue eyes, fair hair, fair complexion. It was originally noted that he was single, later this was crossed out and "Married" entered instead. His previous calling was wool packer, 6yrs. Religion: Church of England. District: North Eastern. He was made a probationary constable on 26 Apr 1910, an ordinary constable on 28 Apr 1911. He was moved to the Metropolitan District on 6 Jan 1911.

And that was all it had. I assumed that he'd stayed an ordinary constable for the rest of his police career. I was wrong.

Yesterday I decided to delve a little further into his police career because I have a family anecdote about him that I wanted to post. I thought I'd just see if he came up in the historical newspapers on Trove. Yes he does. A lot. It turns out that Thomas ended his police career in 1947, after rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent, and retiring from the position of Chief Superintendent of Crime, Vice and Court Staffs. So he wasn't quite just an ordinary constable for the rest of his police career!

It wasn't until 1921 that Thomas Wickham turned up in the newspapers in relation to his job as a police officer. I'm not sure exactly what path his career took until this time, but by this stage he was already a detective. In 1926 he was one of two detectives appointed to the newly formed Drugs Bureau. He appears to have been promoted to Detective Sergeant later that year. He worked for a good number of years in the Drugs Bureau, and made many many arrests, including Kate Leigh, known as Sydney's "Queen of the Underworld". By 1934 he was in CIB teaching police recruits about court procedures. 1938 saw him promoted to assistant to the chief of CIB, as an Inspector. He was made Chief Metropolitan Licensing Inspector in 1939, and then took charge of the Morality Squad in 1940. He was promoted to Superintendent and became the Chief of the Western Police District, based in Parkes, in 1942. He returned to Sydney in 1942 as Chief of CIB. In 1945 he became Chief Superintendent of Crime, Vice and Court Staffs and was awarded the King's Police Medal for distinguished service in 1946. He retired in November 1947.

After finding all this information on Thomas Wickham in the historical newspapers I decided to Google his name with "police". One of the results that came up was for Underbelly: Razor - my response: "You've got to be joking..." Yes, my great great uncle is being portrayed in the latest series of Underbelly! I haven't watched any of the Underbelly series, Razor being no exception. But apparently Sergeant Tom Wickham, as he is known in the series, is represented as an incorruptible police officer. Glad to hear it! The book from which the series was written, Razor by Larry Writer, gives him a pretty good wrap too. Incidentally, I am quite sure, from the description given in the Registers of Police and knowing the family facial features, that the actor they have playing him looks absolutely nothing like him!

So, finally to the anecdote that Mum told me which first got me looking into Thomas Wickham, NSW Police officer: he shot a hole through the ceiling of my Great Nanna's house at 2 St Clair St, Belmore, when his gun accidentally went off. I'll bet that's one story that wasn't told at his retirement!


  1. Hi Prue,
    Thomas Wickham was also my Great Grand Uncle - he was the brother of my Great Grandfather Roland Wickham ! Who ever thought a series like underbelly would get us talking about family tree links !

  2. Hi Anonymous, thanks for saying hello! You might be interested in my posts on Allan Wickham as well then, because he would also be your great great uncle. I've just written one today, and am working on another - on his war experiences. Keep checking back!

  3. Hi, Thomas wickham is my great great grandfathers brother as well... so cool i have just started looking into this family history business and its so incredible finding all this detail! my email is sharnee87@hotmail.com please feel free to email me any info as i have a whole side of the family awaiting on my every find and your website has been an incredible help !

  4. Your great great uncle is on this episode of Four Corners from 1962, roughly 2 minutes in :)


    1. Graham,

      Thankyou SO MUCH for letting me know about this. I'm going to be showing it around the family!

      And I love the accent of the reporter. : )

      Cheers, Prue

  5. Hi Prue,
    My nephew found your blog about my step-grandfather, Thomas Wickham. He married my grandmother, Kathleen Connolly, sometime in the 1950s. I was about 8 years old and went to their wedding, which was held in St. Mary's Catholic church, Waverley, across the road from Pop's unit (he owned the whole block - 4 units) and my grandma lived across the street from him in her own home. We used to visit Grandma and Pop every week and I loved both of them dearly. He passed away when my first child was 8 months old, in 1973. I have lots of information about Pop here, passed down from my mother; photos, books etc. and would happily scan some for you if you would like them. My email is: syd_blues@bigpond.com if you would like to make contact and we can chat more about Pop's time in the police force. He told us many, many stories and showed us his "crook books" with photos of all the "thugs" he had arrested. Regards, Julie Fox