Private Thomas Hickinbotham (3819)

11th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Australian Division, A.I.F.

Malvern Commemoration: St Matthias Malvern Link,

Burial/Commemoration: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial

Nature of Death: Killed in action France 20/7/1916

Age: 43

Next of Kin: Brother of James Henry Hickinbotham of the Fir Tree Public House, Worcester Road, Malvern Link

Previous Employment: Farmer at "Spottiswood", East Wickepin, Western Australia

Capbadge of the Australian Imperial Force

Early years

Thomas Leonard Hickinbotham was born at Saltley near Birmingham on 10th September 1872, the son of Frederick Hickinbotham, a smith, and his wife Sarah Ann.  The couple had Thomas christened at St Saviours, Saltley one month later.  They gave their address as Victoria Street, Small Heath.  

Sometime after 1886, the family moved to Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury where Frederick worked as a foreman in the Midland Railway works.  Thomas served a four year apprenticeship with H J Ison, a chemist at Castle Gates, Shrewsbury.  However in 1909, he emigrated to Australia

A new life in Australia

Thomas sailed from London to Freemantle aboard the Orient Steam Navigation Company‘s ship Omrah.  He was seeking work as a farm hand.

The ss Omrah

The ss Omrah (StateLibQld_1_241749)

In 1912 Thomas was shown on Australian Electoral Records farming at “Spottiswood”, East Wickepin, 140 miles south-east of Perth in Western Australia.

First World War

Thomas Hickinbotham travelled to Blackboy Hill, Western Australia to enlist in the Australian Infantry on 26th August 1915.  At the age of 42 he was on older recruit. He gave his occupation as a Farmer and his next of kin as his brother, John Henry Hickinbotham,  living at 328 Washwood Heath Road, Saltley, Birmingham, England.

Thomas embarked at Freemantle for an unknown destination on HM Australian Transport RMS Mongolian on 22nd November 1915. He joined the 11th Battalion at Habieta, Egypt on 2nd March 1916.

Trench built by the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion at Gebel Habieta, Egypt. February 1916.

Trench built by the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion at Gebel Habieta, Egypt. February 1916.

On 29th March 1916 he embarked on H.M.T. Corsican at Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in France, arriving in Marseilles on 5th April 1916.

At the end of May 1916, the 11th Battalion went into the line in the Fleurbaix sector.  Their first experience of of action came when German forces raided their lines around the Cordonnaire salient.   In the fighting that followed the 11th Battalion lost four men captured, 37 killed and 70 wounded.

Battle of the Somme

In June 1916, the 11th Battalion moved to the Somme and were earmarked to press the attack around Pozieres.  After arriving at Albert on 19th July amidst a gas attack, the battalion spent the next couple of days preparing to attack, working to improve trenches and cache stores, during which they were subjected to heavy artillery bombardment.  The attack was planned for the 23rd July, but Thomas had already been killed on 20th July – probably by shellfire.

He was buried on the battlefield, but his grave was lost and today he is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in 2019.

Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in 2019.

The Malvern connection

Thomas has no direct link with the town of Malvern, however after the First World War, his brother John moved to the town and ran the Fir Tree pub on the corner of Worcester Road and Lower Howsell Road. 

The Malvern Link War Memorial was not installed in St Matthias Church until 1946, and it seems likely that John wished his brother to be remembered somewhere.  Thomas was unmarried, perhaps unlikely to have been memorialised in Australia and any such memorial would have been beyond the reach of any of his family in the United Kingdom.

Thomas Hickinbotham is also commemorated at Wickepin, Western Australia

Wickepin District War Memorial, Western Australia.

Wickepin District War Memorial, Western Australia.

Birmingham, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1922: Saltley, St Saviour 1865 - 1888
1881 Census
1891 Census
Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963
Australia, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

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