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James Leonard Wicks

Servicenumber : 5569940
Rank : Private
Regiment : Wiltshire Regiment
Unit : 4th Battalion
Date of Death : 07-10-1944
Age : 27
Grave : Row A. Grave 3
James Leonard "Jim" Wicks was a son of James Wicks (march 1869-december 1959) and Annie Elizabeth Wicks (nee Neal. 26 january 1879-27 july 1965). He was born on 7 august 1918 in Hullavington, Wiltshire. His father was known as "Donkey Jim" for his trade as a hurdle maker. He also served as a soldier, notable in Africa.
Jim Wicks had one brother, Gabriel, who was born on 11 december 1898. He served with the 6th Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry and was killed in the batte of Somme on 31 march 1918 at the age of 19. His body was never found. He is commemorated on panel 60 of the Pozieres Memorial.
Jim also had 5 sisters: Gladys (28 may 1900 - ), Dorathy (4 november 1902 - 21 may 1965), Adelina-Nellie (april 1905 - ), Phyllis (1 february 1909 - ) and Enid (October 1919 - ). 
After Jim left school in Hullavington he immediately began his employment at Westinghouse in Chippenham. Here they manufactured railway air braking, signalling, mining and colliery equipment, industrial automation and power rectifier equipment in the engineering works. He worked there until he was drafted into the army.  
When Jim Wicks was in his 20's  he would dress up Santa for the children at Christmas time. When 'Santa' had left Jim would arrive just after, pretending to be really disappointed he had missed him.
Jim Wicks enlisted into the Territorial Army at Malmesbury on 22 february 1938. He was posted to the 4th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment for four years' service. On 23 august 1939 he was posted to the 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment and was embodied on the 2nd september 1939. On 29 april 1941 he was send to No. 15 Infantry Training Centre and on 19 september 1941 returned to the 4th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment. He served as the clerk of B Company. 
In june 1942 Jim Wicks married Margaret Williams, who was born in Wales. They lived at Aberavon, Port Talbot, Glamorgan.
On 18 june 1944 Wicks embarked for France and disembarked three days later at Arromanches or Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy. 
James Leonard Wicks was most probably wounded during the fighting on the so-called Island, an area between Nijmegen and Arnhem. According to the war diary of the 4th Battalion they took over positions near Elst and stayed there until 5 october 1944. Then they moved to an assembly area where they rested for a couple of days.
While they stayed near Elst the battalion repulsed a couple of German attacks and were hit by shell and mortar fire. Especially on 3 and 4 october. From the war diary: 
 
3 october 1944
Bn relieves 5 WILTS with fwd coy posns at 705728, 705735, 698747 (6 NW). On their way to take over, D coy suffer cas from shell fire owing to area being lit up by fire, also caused by shelling. Shelling and mortar fire continues during the night at a steady rate.

4 october 1944
Today en shelling and mortar fire has been very heavy in the fwd areas and also in the orchard occupied by Bn HQ this barrage being exceptionally heavy and resulting in Bn HQ moving to new area. D coy successfully engage small parties of enemy 3 of rly in area (708735).
 
It is possible James Leonard Wicks was wounded during this shelling and was taken to the military hospital at Sterksel. Maybe there were plans to repatriate him to England from Eindhoven airfield, but he died of his wounds before that. 
The family of James Leonard Wicks was told he was very seriously wounded. His legs were blown off in action, most probably close to a farm called 'Achterste Laar'. While wounded he threw himself on top of his friend, Thomas George Stacey, to protect him. Both men were taken to Sterksel. 
Jim Wicks apparently died when boarding a plane to bring him home for treatment.
Geoff Young, who also served with B Company and who was a close friend of Jim Wicks, wrote a book about his time with the Wiltshire Regiment. On pages 52 and 53 of this book, called Private Young's War, he wrote: "For the first three days everyting went according to plan.  But then on the fourth day, having arrived at the company as usual, I was ordered straight back to BHQ. I said good-bye to Jim Wicks, my trench mate and we wished each other good-luck. Later that day the enemy put in a sustained attack on the Company. I was lucky not to have been there but unfortunately, Jim was hit, and was now lying , badly wounded waiting for evacuation. The first I heard of it was when Captain Pitty, the adjutant, told me that B Company had asked him to pass on the message about Jim's plight. They had also given a map reference to where Jim was lying. My company was obviously hoping that I could instigate a rescue but there was no direct order to so so either from them or the adjutant. The decision was mine and mine alone. I immediately contacted Sergeant Dennis, the medical sergeant, and askid him where I stood regarding the displaying of a Red-Cross flag while at the same time having weapons and ammunition on board. He told me it was worth the risk. I was still apprehensive at the prospect of breaking the Geneva Convention, but the though of one of my best mates needing help meant that I really had no choice and so off I went. It wasn't long before a burst of intimidating tracer fire from a Spandau crossed my front. Then it stopped as suddenly as it had started; I hoped that they had seen my borrowed Red Cross flag. I raised my hand in acknowledgement to the unseen enemy and went on.
Miraculously, there was no further hindrance from the enemy and, equally so, I soon found the gully where Jim was lying. The two stretcher-bearers, Arthur Snook and Jim Holmes, helped me get Jim on the jeep and then very slowly we made our way back towards the RAP. The German machine gunners remained quiet but then, whilst passing some open ground, a mortar barrage opened up. I quickly drove on to a house, where one of our supporting artillery units had set up a 17 pounder anti-tank gun, and sought shelter there. ...While we where sheltering I gave Jim three letters from his family in Chippenham. The letters cheered him up and while the numbness in his body ensured he was free from pain I knew that I had to move on, despite the mortar fire, and get him to the aid post. We set off again and to my relief reached the RAP where the medical officer was waiting with an ambulance. For the second time that day we wished each other good luck, I promised that I would send on to him his crystallised fruits and, with that and a quick farewell, the ambulance whisked him away."
On page 55 Geoff Young wrote: "It was after arriving back at the company that I was confronted with the awful news that Jim Wicks had not survived his ordeal. Major Gilson, knowing that we were close friends, chose to break the news to me himself. It would appear that after leaving the ambulance Jim was taken to an airstrip where he was placed on an aircraft ready to be evacuated to England. Sadly he died before the aircraft took off and as a result was taken off and buried in Holland. Before leaving for Normandy I had steeled myself for any eventuality and, so far, had felt satisfied that I'd been able to withstand all the emotional knocks thrown at me. However, this was one knock too far and for the first time a tear came to my eyes. My mouth went numb and I was unable to speak, perhaps I hadn't realised just how close we had become comrades. At the time of writing flowers are placed on Jim's grave most Sundays, by a Dutch family."
James Leonard Wicks on his wedding day
 
Picture: 29-08-2010
His memory
Will live for ever
In the hearts
That cannot forget
Picture: 05-08-2014
Picture: 04-05-2015
 
Picture: 08-11-2015 
  
Sources: Website CWGC, 'Private Youngs War', website http://www.harryschoel.nl and Mr. A. Wheeler (Great grand nephew of James Leonard Wicks. Thank you very much for the info and the pictures)

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