WILLIAM ALBERT HICKSON
Date of Death:16/11/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14C.
William Albert Hickson was born in Salford early in 1879. His parents were William, a mill worker originally from Ashton under Lyne, and Emma who had been born in Failsworth. He was the fourth of six children - his siblings being Elizabeth, Arthur, Alfred, Arnold and Annie. William senior and Emma has originally lived together in Failsworth before moving to Salford. The family moved to Royton at some time between Annie's birth in 1884 and 1887. In that latter year Emma Hickson died in Royton aged 39, it is possible this was during childbirth with another son confusingly also called William as a baby boy of that name also died in Royton at that time. It would seem from the historical records that William Albert went by both names, possibly more often Albert.
The Hicksons lived together at 5 High Barn Street and were there for both the 1891 and 1901 censuses, for the latter William Albert was working as a piecer in one of the local cotton mills. William senior remarried to a Royton woman, Selina Stott, at St John's Church in Manchester on February 4th 1899. Together they had two children - another William and Nellie. In 1902 William senior passed away aged 51. In 1911 William Albert, now a 32 year old spinner, was living at 7 High Barn Street with his stepmother Selina and his two half siblings.
At the time of William Albert's enlistment in Royton on December 12th 1915 he was working as a minder at the Star Mill which was on Edge Lane Street. He was then sent home to await his mobilisation which came on March 21st 1916. He was first sent to the 3rd/10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, Oldham's third territorial unit which had been formed in 1915, who were stationed at Witley in Surrey. After his training in England he was sent out for active service, arriving in France on September 29th 1916. Shortly afterwards he was one of the hundreds of replacements received by the Regiment's 2nd Battalion to make up the many losses they had suffered so far in the Battle of the Somme. The Battalion had been out in France and Flanders since shortly after the outbreak of war and Royton men William Mills France, Allan Martin, William Southworth and John Gavin had all already been killed serving with them. Another, John Buckley, who had been wounded early in the war had died shortly before William Albert Hickson left England.
William Albert spent October 1916 in the Somme sector in training with his new Battalion which also provided working parties during this time. His experience of the front line was to be a very short one. The 2nd Manchesters headed up towards the front line at 23:00 on the night of November 15th, their relief of the 1st Berkshires at Serre Trench being completed by 07:00 on the 16th. At some point that day William Albert Hickson was killed along with four other members of the Battalion. What befell them is unknown but it seems most likely they were killed by a shell or shells. He was originally listed as having gone missing on November 18th but this was due to the confusion of first the Battalion being engaged fighting off a German attack on November 17th and then going over the top on the 18th, suffering heavy casualties. One of those killed on the 18th was William Charles Plant. It was eventually ascertained that William Albert had been killed on the 16th and his stepmother Selina was informed of this in October 1917. During that same month his half brother William was wounded, also serving with the Manchester Regiment.
The following notice appeared in the Oldham Chronicle of November 17th 1917 with similar ones in 1918 and 1919:
In loving memory of Private Wm.Albert Hickson,
killed in action in France Nov.18th 1916"
From his loving Sisters
The Hickson family grave can be found in Royton Cemetery and contains William Albert's mother and father, stepmother Selina (who died in 1936 aged 67), his half brother William (1936,aged 39) and also a Hannah and Mary Hickson. Hannah was probably William Albert's grandmother and it's possible that Mary was the wife of his brother Alfred. Alfred himself died in 1905 and is buried in another grave in the cemetery along with his sister Annie (by then Annie Smith who died in 1937).
The men of the 2nd Manchesters listed as being killed the same day as William Albert Hickson were:
HOLDEN JOHN 29 CQSM 1630 from Manchester
IRELAND DAVID Private 41473 born Salford,enlisted Manchester
IRVIN REUBEN 25 Private 1374 from Manchester
WOOLLEY THOMAS Private 41586 from Oldham