Kent Messenger Maidstone

Service for a hero who died from wounds 100 years ago


The centenary commemorat­ions for the First World War have caused many communitie­s to rediscover their local heroes. In Sevenoaks, a special service was held this July at St Nicholas Church in memory of Second Lieutenant William Goss Hicks, who died in France from wounds on July 3, 1917. He is buried in Barlin Cemetery, near Bethune, France, but there is a plaque to his memory within the church, where Hicks had worshipped and been a choir member.

He was born in Fulham in 1882, to William Hicks senior, who had been a butler to Lord Sackville at Knole House and his wife Mary. The family lived in a cottage behind the Manor House in Upper High Street. He was educated at Lady Boswell’s Primary School in Sevenoaks at a time when the school was in London Road – it’s now in Plymouth Drive.

As an adult he returned in 1898 to teach there and in 1913 became headmaster, with a reputation as a strict disciplina­rian, who neverthele­ss seldom resorted to corporal punishment.

Hicks was known as Bill, and coincident­ly, his old school building has now been converted to a restaurant by the Bill’s chain.

In 1909, he founded the 1st Sevenoaks Scout Group, known as the Hicks’ Own Scout Group, which is still flourishin­g. He enlisted a few months after war broke out, and after saying goodbye to his fiancee Jessie Ellman, daughter of a local ironmonger, went off to the Western Front.

He was able to return once on leave, when he was greeted enthusiast­ically by his Scouts who raised him to their shoulders and carried him around the town.

Hicks served with the 260th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery unit. He was in charge of a gun battery on July 2, 1917, when it was struck by a German shell. Hicks was badly injured and removed to a clearing station and given a blood transfusio­n but he died at 4.30am the next day.

A choir of schoolchil­dren from Lady Boswell’s sang at his commemorat­ion service.

His story is the inspiratio­n for an art installati­on Echoes of Separation about the First World War by his great, great niece, Jane Churchill, which has been displayed in the Guildhall Art Gallery in London.

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 ?? ?? 2nd Lt William Goss Hicks, who died in 1917
2nd Lt William Goss Hicks, who died in 1917

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