08 November 2011

Allan Wickham's war diary

Allan Wickham (born 1893, died 3 May 1917) was my great great uncle, and my grandfather was named after him. Allan Wickham enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 11 March 1915, service number 94. He was killed in action in the second battle of Bullecourt, France, on 3 May 1917.

I've just finished reading through his war diary. He was a very to-the-point sort of writer, and generally just wrote one or two sentences for each day's entry. Still, you get an impression, albeit quite objective, of the war he experienced. I shall give details of his war in another post. He wrote regularly in the diary from when he left Australia on June 3, 1915, until September 17, 1916. He then abruptly stopped writing, and a few pages further on he pinned this undated note:

According to his service records he never went to London, at least officially anyway. A mystery for another time perhaps.

Allan mentioned a number of his mates in his diary and there was one in particular I wanted to track down, because he died and I wondered if the exact nature of his death was ever made known to his family. I searched through many many service records yesterday, and eventually found the correct one. Allan's diary entry was:

June 18 [1916]: Left Harve (sic) at 12 noon for camp nearer firing line. Storey is knocked out of train by a horse in tunnel. Train stopped and six of us went back to pick him up. Terribly mangled, stopped another train and took the body back to Rouen.

June 19: Arrived Rouen at 2am. Handed body over to A.M.C. Our first casualty. Left Rouen to rejoin battery at 2:30pm.

The soldier he mentions was Bertie Storey, service number 2043. Bertie was a 21 year old unmarried dairy farmer from Victoria. According to Bertie's service records he was killed in an accident on a train, but doesn't mention how. It also details his injuries, which must have seemed strange for an accident on a train - fractured skull comminuted, fractured femurs, tibia, both legs and left foot. It makes much more sense when you understand he was knocked from the train. He was buried in Boisguillaume Cemetery in Rouen, France. Anyway, I just thought I'd mention this, just in case any of Bertie's relatives are ever searching for information on him and happen to come across this.

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