250 Frederick Wicks was four weeks shy of the minimum enlistment age of 19 and just to make sure he would not be rejected he had a letter from his father giving consent to enlist. Fred was a young carpenter born in “Jaspers Brush” Berry NSW and living with his father in Ryde NSW.
Frederick came from a large family of 6 sisters and 4 brothers – His mother Annie Eva Wicks ( nee Miller) had died only 6 months before he enlisted, she was 56 years old.
His father Thomas was a carter for the Ryde council and was proud to have both his son’s Fred and George (Sid) join the AIF.
On June 3rd Fred was stationed on the beach at Gallipoli, to be employed permanently, as stated on a small piece of paper signed by Lieut. Biden…..Fred kept this paper and noted on the reverse side , “GOOD SOUVENIR DO NOT LOSE ..FRED “. This small piece of paper a souvenir kept through out the war by Fred, survived and is now in the Australian War Memorial archives along with his war diary.
Sixteen days later, Fred was wounded on the 19th June by shrapnel and taken aboard the hospital ship “Gascon” and on June 21 had the bullet removed and was later admitted to the Palace Hospital Alexandria.
He recovered as he declared he would in his letters to his family and returned to Gallipoli in September where he was transferred from Wire Gully and stationed on McClays Hill. Early in October he would meet up with his brother Sydney(Sid) a private in the 20th Battalion.
Like many of the men at Gallipoli, October 23rd Fred was struck down with dysentery and was transferred to Hospital in Malta, it would also be the last time he would see his brother Sid alive.
A resilient young man, Fred would once again recover, and determined to stay with his company, he remained with 1st Field Co. through the entire war, interrupted only by a few weeks of leave and training at bridging school , and Musketry school to further advance his skills.
His letters to his sister Eva, show a young man seemingly unaffected by the dangers of daily life at Anzac Cove.
He was “still going strong” and later describing being wounded by shrapnel as nothing serious and souveniring the pieces removed from his back and shoulder after the operation……. Such was the spirit of this young Anzac.
The following news article in The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate , in August 1915 accompanied a picture of 250 Frederick Charles Wicks
SAPPER F. C. (FRED) WICKS.
This patriotic soldier is the youngest son of Mr. T. Wicks, of Glebe-street, Ryde, carter for the Ryde Council. He is 19 years of age and left with the Expeditionary Forces on December 22nd last. He is attached to the First Field Company of the Engineers.
Writing to his sister, Eva, from the Dardanelles on June 3rd, he says: —
“We had a pretty Warm reception on landing ashore at 4 a.m. on April 25th — bullets and shrapnel flying all round us. Have had three weeks here and still going strong. I have met Russel Thornton, Syd Adams, and H. Craig on the field, and also J.Luckett.”
His next communication, also to his sister, was from Gallipoli Peninsula, and was dated the 10th of June.
“Just a few lines….to let you know I am still in the land of the living and enjoying the best of health. . . . We had a pretty tough problem landing here on April. 25th, All troops were brought close to land on torpedo boats and then dumped into rowing craft. The enemy were not satisfied, with waiting for us to land but started pegging into us in the torpedo boats.
After getting into the ‘ pleasure boats’ (but not for pleasure) we started out for land with shrapnel and bullets flying all round the boats, but the Turks are very bad shots. As soon as the boats hit bottom we had to jump out, waist deep, and for our lives for cover. All this was done before 4 o’clock in the morning. I put in the whole day dodging about and having a shot where opportunity offered. Many times during the day, whilst under the cover of a bush, the Turks had their machine guns firing all around (about 200 to 300 bullets per minute). The bullets from the machine guns were cutting the tops off the bushes and spreading them all over me. Shells were also flying in all directions. The warships were out from shore about six miles, and they were giving the Turks some ‘hurry up.’
“To hear the battleships firing is just like one continuous roar of thunder…………All hands have got dug outs in the side of a hill and it is very funny, when a shell comes over to so the men duck for those shelters just like a lot of rabbits scurrying to their burrows. Thrice have I and my mate had narrow escapes from shells, which were literally landing all round us. – One landed at the foot and another at the head of our dug out, while a third plumped right inside the dug out and blow everything to pieces. We were lucky enough to be out working at the time and I have been laid up this week with a bad foot. We were working on a barge and I trod on a piece of timber with a spike in it, the spike penetrating the bottom of my foot. It will be right again in a few days. About a fortnight ago I witnessed the sinking of one of our battleships.” (Just here the censor had a go.)
The next letter Fred wrote was from Cairo; and was dated July 3rd.
“Dear Father, Sisters, and Brothers,………..,……… no doubt you will be surprised on noticing the above address, to find that I am back in Egypt again. I happened to be on the unlucky side on June 19 by getting wounded on the right shoulder with a bit a shrapnel. I happened to be out working in the open, near a black smith’s forge, which was kicking up a devil of a noise when all of a sudden a shell burst in front of me. Of course I had no time to duck for cover. All of a sudden some thing seemed to catch me on the shoulder and down I went like a log.
I was lucky enough to be near a hospital and so was soon attended to. The bullet entered the front of my right shoulder and went down my back as far as the top of my trousers. It missed the collar bone and lung and did no serious damage. I had it in my back for two days and then went under an operation when it was extracted. I have it in my pocket now and am likely to stick to it. I am still in the hospital and likely to remain here for another week or two before returning to the scene of operations. Nothing broken, but have still got the stiffness in the arm and chest. It is wearing away tip top. Excuse scribble as arm is stiff and I’m in hurry to catch mail. Fred.”
Frederick was a very robust and reliable young man, a young man with a faultless war service record and ultimately awarded for his distinguished service through out the course of the war.
Frederick kept a daily diary and interestingly he makes no gruesome detailed entries on the war, and no mention of the loss of his brother Sidney 2 days before the evacuation of Gallipoli or the deaths of his close friends, sappers Nicholls, Pitt and Hollingworth. Fred remained focused on keeping records on the daily sapper work, section movements, bridging techniques and also detailing his leave and his travels and tours around London, Paris and Glasgow.
At the end of each period of leave, Frederick would return straight back to the trenches and continued where he left off, his entries describing the trenching, strong point preparations and parapet repairs, duck boarding and salvaging while on the move on the front line, always under shell fire and gas bombs.
Frederick had the unique ability of being almost clinical and able to switch on and off and expressed none of the raw war-torn emotion one could expect after such a long service. His diary remained upbeat and Fred seemed to balance war and sightseeing as if they were just part of his job description. He makes no diary entries and makes no mention of his recommendations for a Military Medal or the Distinguished Conduct Medal which he would ultimately be awarded.
His recommendation for Military Medal was for……………………………..
“During the operations along the MENIN ROAD on the 20th/21st September 1917 Corporal Wicks displayed great coolness and devotion to duty in the construction of a strong point in POLYGON WOOD. At great personal risk he organised a party for collection of material for the construction of the strong point. During the counter attack he displayed great coolness and kept his party well under control.” – Source: – AWM
Frederick’s citation for the D.C.M follows……………………………………..
“For continuous and valuable work and devotion to duty during the period 25 February to 16 September 1918. At Strazeele, when his section officer was killed, he carried on, and commanded the section until a reinforcement officer arrived from base, and his work during this period was of a very high standard. While in this area he conducted his section in a workmanlike and praiseworthy manner, and during the operation there he proved his leadership in the operation in the Somme area from August 8th to the end of the period. He has at all times been foremost in volunteering for the most dangerous tasks. By his personal example of Bravery and untiring energy he has set a fine example to his men which has produced the highest results “
Source: AWM and ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 135
Date: 11 December 1919
After the war Frederick Wicks resumed his normal life as a carpenter and married Muriel Alma Fay Bowman in 1920.
Between the years of 1930 and to 1958 , Fred and Muriel were living at 31 Parramatta Rd , Haberfield NSW, and shortly after they moved to 17 Bayview Rd, Five Dock NSW.
In 1967 Fred applied for his own Gallipoli Medal and in typical Fred Wick’s style he makes no mention of his DCM or any details on his history simply that he “was with the original landing at Gallipoli.”
Fred and Alma were still residing at Five Dock up to 1972, and now both close to their 80’s it appears that their son Lawrence John Wicks a bread carter, was living with them.
Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015
Sources: AWM, NLA, NAA
1. Frederick Wicks Sisters and Brothers.
Alfred W Wicks – born 1877
Harold Ernest Wicks – born 1881
George Sydney Thomas Wicks – born 1894 – 1336 Pte George Sidney Thomas WICKS, 20th Bn, killed in action, Gallipoli, 17 December 1915.
Havelock John Wicks – born 1892
Henry Robert Wicks – born 1889 died age 3
Elizabeth Maude Wicks – born 1878
Ethell May Mary Wicks – born 1881
Bertha Elizabeth Wicks -born 1884
Rebecca Wicks – born 1886
Eva L Wicks – born 1888
Annie Florence Wicks – born 1897