• Christina Drummond

Gunner Walter Charles Wickens, 107th Battery, 23rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and Sergeant Herb


Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Gunner Walter Charles Wickens, 107th Battery, 23rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action at Bazentin-la-Grande on the Somme. The previous day his brother, Sergeant Herbert Henry Wickens, 7th Battalion, the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), was killed in action at Trones Wood on the Somme. Both brothers had joined their regiments just after the outbreak of the Great War.

The 107th Battery mobilized in August of 1914 – Gunner Wickens saw action briefly at the Battle of Mons, his Battery being part of the infantry line, which was successful in halting a large enemy infantry attack before being part of the rearguard action at Solesmes. The 23rd Brigade (consisting of the 107th, 108th and 109th Batteries) was involved in several battles including Le Cateau, the First Battles of the Marne, the Aisne and Ypres, the First Attack on Bellewaarde and the Actions at Hooge. In 1916 they fought during the Actions of the Bluff and St. Eloi’s Craters, the Battle of Albert and then the Battle of Bazentin – it was during this battle that Gunner Walter Wickens lost his life. The British Fourth Army made a dawn attack against the German 2nd Army, and succeeded, despite being dismissed beforehand by French commander as "an attack organized for amateurs by amateurs." During the three days of the battle, the casualties amounted to over nine thousand. Gunner Wickens is buried in the Carnoy Military Cemetery on the Somme.

Sergeant Herbert Wickens’ battalion, the 7th (Service), was raised at Canterbury in September of 1914 as part of Kitchener's Second New Army. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, they were given the task of clearing the Carnoy craters, knee-deep in mud and both British and German fatalities showing evidence of heavy bayonet fighting. By the end of the war there were 532 missing from his regiment, the majority being Privates, with an age range of 17 to 42. During the Battle of Trones Wood, both armies suffered many casualties - the Germans had been scattered by the British shelling and temporarily abandoned the attack the night of the 12th of July. The British lost direction during the night as they tried to make their way through undergrowth and fallen trees, stumbling into German posts and having to engage in close combat. The following day at dawn the British attempted to advance only to find they were heading into massed German machine-gun and artillery-fire; Sergeant Wickens lost his life due to being hit in the throat by shrapnel at some point during the long day of bombardment. He is buried in the London Cemetery And Extension at Longueval on the Somme.

Walter, from Hawkhurst in Kent, was 36 years old, Herbert was ten years younger.

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