In Search of a Grandfather

Bill Wicks in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on the Somme

Bill Wicks in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on the Somme

With the fast transport system, from England to France and Belgium, it is fairly easy to visit the battlefields of The Western Front from World War One.

Nevertheless, it is also easy to forget that so many Commonwealth Countries soldiers fought there, and even today it is not easy for their relatives to travel and visit the battlefields where their forefathers could be found fighting alongside the British Tommy.

We found this recently with Mr Bill Wicks. Bill is from New Zealand and he wanted to visit the Somme; to find both his Grandfather’s name on the New Zealand Memorial; and if possible, to find the location he went missing in the latter days on the Somme campaign, an era when the tank was used as a weapon of war for the first time.

With a little research, we found the location of the trenches where his grandfather died and also found his name on the memorial to the missing. With two full days battlefield touring planned Bill made his way over to Paris and then joined me on The Somme.

We initially covered The First Day on The Somme, 1 July 1916, and then in detail the actions of his Grandfather’s brigade as we walked the trench line where his grandfather was lost. His Grandfather being Sgt H J Wicks of the 3rd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade and an ex Royal Marine.

Bill Wicks at The Somme New Zealand Memorial

Bill Wicks at The Somme New Zealand Memorial


I have just returned from Europe and wanted to get in touch.  The two days with you Matt on the Somme was the highlight of my European trip, and I intending to come back to do the full tour. Thanks for a great time, it was very memorable plus I really enjoyed your company

For myself a lasting memory of the battlefield tour will be when Bill took a rubbing, in the same style as a brass rubbing, of his grandfathers name from the wall of remembrance; then as he gently rolled up the paper he said:

‘ … come on Granddad time to take you home’.

Bill’s final comment on the tour were … thanks again, having seen the battlefield, the books I read about it now have more meaning and they all make so much more sense …

I look forward to welcoming Bill back to The Western Front in the next couple of years.