17 January 2012

Allan Wickham's war mates Part 2

The Australian War Memorial website has files called the First World War Red Cross Wounded and Missing files. There is a file there on Allan Wickham. It contains eye-witness accounts of his death, and also statements by some of the men who served with him, giving details on his physical appearance, and also the place of his burial. One of the statements, by Percy Martin, service number 3841, gives a description of him that made me smile: "Big lump of a chap." I have not seen a photo of Allan Wickham, but I have seen photos of his brother Tom Wickham, the policeman, who was a big burly guy - a bulky upper half - not fat, just big boned. Also, Allan's sister, my Great Nanna, was also big in the upper part of her body, as is my grandfather, her son. It's clearly a physical characteristic that's common amongst the Wickhams.

Anyway, on the back page of his war diary Allan has recorded 8 surnames with numbers after them, grouped into pairs. One of the names is his own, with 94 after it - his service number. So Mum and I have tried to work out who they all were. These were the names and numbers:

Turton 252
White 2033

Martin 3841
Kelly 1733

Grimes 3745
Wickham 94

Wakenfield 2030
Ovesen 1868

TURTON. Roy Turton, service number 252. He was unmarried, 21 when he enlisted, a carpenter, and in the RANBT, like Allan, and transferred, like Allan, to the 12th Field Artillery Brigade (F.A.B.), 48th Battery, on the same day as him. He was promoted to bombardier 3 days after Allan. Unlike Allan he survived the war (although he was wounded), rising up to the rank of sergeant. Sergeant Turton wrote an account of Allan's death for the Red Cross file, in which he said "I have sent Wickham's wallet and photo and other small property home to his mother, Mrs Wickham." I get the feeling that there was a great camaraderie in the RANBT - after all, for all of them in that unit it was the first conflict they'd all seen, together, which must have forged a great bond, so when they lost one of their own, they looked after things for them.

WHITE. I believe this was Frank Isaac White, service number 2033A. He was unmarried, just turned 24 when he joined up, a coach body maker, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery and transferred to the 24th F.A.B. on the same day as Allan, but transferred out of that unit 4 months later. He was killed in action in Belgium on 20 Sep 1917.

MARTIN. Percy Martin, service number 3841. Mentioned above. He was unmarried, 18 when he enlisted, a miner, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, and transferred to the 24th F.A.B. on the same day as Allan, but transferred out of that unit at the same time as Frank White (above). At the end of his statement to for the Red Cross File he said about Allan "He was one of the best comrades I ever had." Martin also survived the war.

KELLY. I believe "Kelly" was Francis Lawrence Kelly, service number 1733A. He was unmarried, 20 when he joined up, a miner, and served in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, then the 24th F.A.B., then the 11th F.A.B., transferring from unit to unit on the same days Allan did. Percy Martin mentioned him in his statement for the Red Cross files as Gunner Kelly. Although he was wounded in action (gassed), Kelly also survived the war.

GRIMES. This was Thomas William Grimes, service number 3745. He was unmarried, 23 when he enlisted, a bricklayer, and was in the 12th F.A.B. for three months overlapping the time Allan was in that unit. For such a short time I guess they must have worked reasonably closely together to be listed amongst what I presume were Allan's close mates. Grimes was gassed during the war, and although he made it home to Australia he was discharged as permanently medically unfit, his level of incapacity listed as total.

WAKENFIELD. This was actually David Victor Wakenshaw, service number 2030B. He was 28 when he enlisted, unmarried and a farmer. He was in the 12th F.A.B. 48th Battery, for four months, coinciding with Allan's service in the unit. Wakenshaw survived the war.

OVESEN. Ove Christian Ovesen, service number 1868A. Ovesen was unmarried, 20 years old when he enlisted, and a farm worker. He was in the 12th F.A.B., 48th Battery, the the 24th F.A.B., and then the 11th F.A.B., transferring on the same days as Allan. Ovesen survived the war.

Considering all the named soldiers served at some stage in at least one of the units with Allan, I think we can assume that they knew each other (definitely for Turton, Kelly and Martin, on the basis of the Red Cross files). That they were mates is just guessing, but it's a reasonable assumption to make. They were mostly very young, and all single - the young unmarried blokes apparently sticking together. It seems sad that apart from Frank White and Allan Wickham all of these alleged mates made it home to Australia, however for at least some of them their lives were irrevocably changed by the war, for the worse.


  1. Hi Prue
    Roy Turton was my Grandpa. Shall see if my dad can check Roys' war diary for any additional information in respect to Allan & the other men noted.

  2. Thankyou so much Brad. I look forward to hearing if there is anything. Prue

  3. Hi Prue
    I spoke to my Dad this morning & yes there is additional information in Roys' war diary & log books. Taking a little while to collate though as the diary is written in very fine & small script with pencil nearly 100 years ago. Shall subscribe & pass on information when I have something.

  4. Once again, thank you so much Brad!! It means a lot that you are going to such trouble for me. Send me a message through the "Contact me" button near the top on the lefthand side and then we can correspond through email if that is easier.

    It's interesting - Allan's diary was written in pencil too. Probably much simpler than having to carry around a nib and ink. One of those things you don't necessarily notice until someone draws your attention to it!