Wicks, James Macrae Corrie
‘Jimmy’ Wicks was the only child of Reginald Corrie Wicks, of 23 Park Road, Abingdon and Eleanor Agnes Wicks (daughter of John Macrae DL, a solicitor on Orkney).
He came to Moberly’s from Horris Hill in September 1928 and was a decent footballer and cricketer. He left Winchester in July 1933 for Sandhurst, and was commissioned in February 1935 into 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment, joining 1st Battalion in India in 1936.
Wicks was promoted to Lieutenant in 1938, and in late September the battalion embarked at Bombay for Palestine where they were to undertake peace-keeping duties. Apart from Wicks, the battalion contained the Wykehamist John Rawlyn Charles ‘Jack’ Mallock (B1922-1927), who would die in Normandy the day after Wicks, whilst commanding 7th Hampshires.
From Palestine they went to Egypt, helping to round up the Italian population when Italy declared war on 10th June, moving on to Mersa Matruh on the Libyan-Egyptian border in September. No sooner had 1st Hampshires helped clear up the battlefield after Wavell’s successful offensive at Sidi Barrani in December 1940, than they were embarked on Royal Navy cruisers and shipped to Malta. There 1st Hampshires formed part of 231 Infantry Brigade, responsible for the defence of Malta against sea-borne or parachute landings.
Wicks eventually left Malta to return to Palestine; a staff course at Haifa led to a post as GSO2 at HQ XXI Indian Corps in Persia, with the temporary rank of Major, and then a post as a GSO1 with the acting rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; for this work he gained a mention in despatches, dated August 1943. He relinquished his staff appointment late in 1943 in order to rejoin 1st Battalion in England. To gain this objective he voluntarily reverted to the rank of Captain, as the battalion had its full complement of Majors.
231 Brigade had left Malta early in 1943 and then seen active service in Sicily and Italy; in October, the Brigade was shipped back to England, where its experience in assault landings was needed for the Normandy invasion. 231 Brigade was part of 50th (Northumbrian) Division – somewhat odd, given that it was made up not of northerners but of battalions of the Hampshires, Dorsets and Devons.
Wickes was Officer Commanding Support Company of the assault battalion on the Jig Green sector of Gold beach. At Le Hamel (Asnelles), where the Hampshires were supposed to land, the beach was overlooked by a German strong-point, which had survived intact and was able to bring heavy fire down on the British forces. It was manned by troops of 352nd Division, the same unit which was giving the Americans a hard time at Omaha Beach that morning. The first British forces ashore at about 0725 were specialist tanks – AVREs and ‘Crab’ flail tanks – which attempted to open up routes through the obstructions, but suffered heavy casualties in the process. Royal Navy frogmen and Royal Engineers also suffered and were unable to make much progress in clearing obstacles. The Centaur tanks of the Royal Marines which were to support the landing were late, only two of the sixteen tank landing craft arriving on time.
The infantry had been delayed, since the wind had blown the landing craft off course further east, and the Hampshires in fact landed at Les Roquettes. Almost as soon as they landed their commanding officer was twice wounded and evacuated, the artillery spotters were hit and their radios knocked out.
Wicks organised all available personnel into a fighting force and though wounded, led the attack on Asnelles-sur-Mer, capturing the village and twenty-five prisoners. It was for this action that he was recommended for the MC, the award of which appeared in the London Gazette in September 1944.
As a result of these casualties, on June 7th Wicks was moved from Support Company to command ‘C’ Company. The battalion moved inland to Rubersy, where it went into a tight position and re-organized. On June 10th, 1st Hampshires advanced towards Bernières Bocage, south of Bayeux. There the battalion came up against stiff German opposition, and the advance was halted. 1st Hampshires tried again on June 12th. It was in this action that Wicks was killed, at the age of twenty-nine, charging a machine-gun position at the head of his men.
He rests in grave II.E.5 of the Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery.
- Surname: Wicks
- Forenames or initials: James Macrae Corrie
- House: B
- Years in School: 1928-1933
- Rank: Major
- Regiment: Hampshire Regiment
- Date of Birth: 6th February 1915
- Date of Death: 12th June 1944
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Inner F2
- Decoration: MC
- Burial Site: Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery: Grave II.E.5