Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The Wickens family originated on the Isle of Wight where they lived until at least 1891. Thomas and Rhoda Wickens had married in 1890 and the following year their first child Thomas James was born. He was followed by Helena (b. 1894) and Arthur (b. 1897). Thomas Wickens snr. was a bricklayer by trade and it may have been the need for such skilled workmen that brought the family to Portsmouth in the years leading up to 1901. Their first home was at 94 Oxford Road, Southsea but within a short time the family had moved to 41, St George's Square, Portsea, where they ran a boarding house for dockyard workers whilst Thomas snr. branched out as a general builder as well as bricklayer.
In 1906, when just 15 years of age, Thomas James Wickens left home to join the Royal Navy as a stoker. We do not know what happened to Thomas in the early years of his naval career but by the outbreak of war he was serving aboard HMS Hampshire. The ship took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31st May, 1916 and emerged safely to return to Scapa Flow. On the 5th June she was directed to carry Lord Kitchener on a diplomatic mission to Russia but at 8 o'clock in the evening in heavy seas she struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75 a few days earlier, and sank within 15 minutes. Only 12 men survived the sinking.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list Leading Stoker Thomas James Wickens (364534), Royal Navy, serving on HMS Hampshire, died 05/06/1916, Age 25. Son of Thomas and Rhoda Wickens, of 41, St. George's Square, Portsea, Portsmouth. Remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Panel 17).
Thomas Wickens is also remembered on the St. George's Church WW1 memorial and the Cenotaph. He is listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War' Section X, p. 249.
Tim Backhouse
December 2013