I remember fondly joining Bill Wicks on a tour of The Somme battlefield. Bill had travelled from New Zealand and hoped to better understand what it was that his Grandfather, Sgt Henry James Wicks of the 3rd Battalion New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, had endured during World War One and the Battle of The Somme, where he paid the ultimate price in October 1916.
After returning to New Zealand Bill regularly kept in touch and was soon busy writing a book based on his grandfather’s experience. I was absolutely delighted to find his book has now been published and is widely available; Bill has titled the book ‘A Long Way to Come to Die’.
On the back cover of the book, Bill outlines the story:
This is Bill Wicks first novel, it is a story of three young New Zealanders who enlist in the army in 1914. Their blooding at Gallipoli followed by service both on the Western Front and in Palestine results in the death of two of them, but because of the survivor’s mistrust of British Military justice, there is doubt as to which one returns to New Zealand. The story tells of the hell of Gallipoli and the trenches of France, the disillusionment of the young men who fought and died there.
The book does not pull any punches but tells of the fear, the filth of no-man’s-land and the need for the men to carry out unnatural actions of butchery, not for any ideas of patriotism or crusade but for their mates. The men did not think of themselves as heroes. To them, the true heroes were the stretcher-bearers who unarmed, risked death to recover the wounded and carry them to safety.
They did not achieve fame or high rank and were rarely decorated, but to the fighting men, they were the true heroes. This is not a book to read for light entertainment. It is sometimes dirty and brutal. There is no glory in war. It is an obscenity perpetrated by those who do not fight it, but there is something magnificent in the fact that ordinary men can, when required do extraordinary things.
Understandably in the acknowledgments, Bill dedicates the book to his grandfather:
Sergeant HJ Wicks, service number 25/367, Third Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade was killed in action near Flers, on 1st October 1916.
I walked up the road passing the place where he died. All I felt was peace.
Bill Wicks is an ex-soldier and officer and a semi-retired surveyor, teaching surveying at a local polytechnic. He is married to Gabrielle who helped him write the book. Apart from being an enthusiastic homebrewer is also a very bad guitarist and surfer, with a love of military history, country music and vegetable gardening.
Bill’s book, A Long Way to Come to Die, is now available on Amazon – Click Here