Frederick Albert John Wickens was born in Newbury, Berkshire, in the summer of 1889. The oldest of four children to Alfred and Emily Wickens, his father was a brewer’s labourer.
The military life proved more of a draw to Frederick, however. While his full records no longer exist, by the time of the 1911 census, he was recorded as being a Sapper with the 2nd Field Troop of the Royal Engineers. He was based at Potchefstroom, around 75 miles (120km) south east of Johannesburg in South Africa, and his trade was listed as a tailor.
Sadly, it is at this point that Frederick’s trail goes tepid, if not cold.
From a personal perspective, he married a woman called Rose, who was a year younger then him. Her details are scarce, and there is nothing to confirm when or where they married (other than the 1911 census, when Frederick was listed as ‘single’).
The couple must have had some connection to Gillingham, as this is where they lived; given the proximity of the Royal Engineers Barracks in neighbouring Chatham.
Sapper Wickens’ military service continued into the Great War. He was awarded the medaille militaire by Belgium, and achieved the rank of Serjeant during his career. Unfortunately, there are no details of the actions around either the award or his promotion.
Serjeant Wickens passed away on 27th February 1921; he died in Chatham, although the cause was not recorded. He was 31 years old.
Frederick Albert John Wickens lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.
Frederick’s younger brother Thomas, also served in the Great War. He enlisted in the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment, and was involved in the battles on the Western Front. Sadly he was killed in the fighting on 24th May 1916, at the age of 19 years old.