William jnr (Billy) was born on 18 November 1893 in Rugby, but was baptised on 21 January 1894 at Bulkington, Warwickshire. He was the son of William Hickingbotham who had also been born in Bulkington in about 1868. In 1894, William senior was a brakesman; in 1901, a Railway Foreman Shunter, and by 1911 was working in the L&NW rail traffic department. His marriage with Hannah Jane Elizabeth, née Pegg, was registered in Nuneaton Q3, 1891. She was also born in Bulkington, in about 1872.
The family had presumably moved to Rugby before the end of 1893, and in 1901 and 1911 the family lived at 33 Cambridge Street Rugby. In 1911, William junior was 17, single and a boot making apprentice. By then he had three younger sisters and two younger brothers.
William’s Medal Card shows that he was initially in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Private, No.4584, but later transferred to the Royal Engineers as Pioneer, No.130551. Thirteen pages of William’s Pension Records have survived.
William initially joined the 3/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was first attested on 16 November 1915 and ‘posted’ the same day. He was discharged on 17 March 1916 and he re-enlisted that day in the Royal Engineers and was re-attested on 19 March 1916, at Clevedon, when he was 22 years and 4 months old. He was 5 foot 8½ inches tall, a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. His father William was listed at his next of kin.
His Service Record shows that he was on Home Service from 18 to 29 March 1916. He was posted as a Pioneer on 30 March 1916, and then posted to the British Expeditionary Force from 30 March 1916 to 8 April 1918.
During this period of service, he was ‘Wounded’, this being listed in the Weekly Casualty List in August 1917. He recovered locally without being sent back to UK, and he was in action again some time in late March or early April 1918, probably during the German assault of Operation Michael, when he was gassed by Mustard Gas.
He was evacuated back to UK on 9 April 1918 and listed as back on Home Service from that date, and posted to the ‘Royal Engineers Spec. Bde. Dept.’. He had medical examinations regarding his condition and future pension at St Luke’s War Hospital, Halifax, on 13 and 18 April 1918. He had been ‘Gassed sev …’, and was ‘Permanently excluded from liability for medical re-examination under the Military Service (review of exemptions) Act 1917’. He was suffering from ‘phthisis’ [pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease] and his medical record suggests that ‘Gassed by Mustard Gas, wd. probably be the cause’. It was suggested that this was ‘70% due to service during the war with Germany’. Sanatorium treatment was recommended. At Chatham on 9 May 1918, he was formally ‘Discharged, no longer physically fit for war service’. He had ‘v.good’ military character and was awarded a ‘v.satisfactory’ character. He received the Silver War Badge No.361456, when he was invalided out, to show he was not avoiding war service.
It is not known to which, if any, sanatorium he was sent, however, he died just a month after his discharge, aged 24, on 10 June 1918. He was buried at Rugby in the Clifton Road Cemetery in plot: J479. On his CWGC headstone his parents chose to have inscribed ‘In Loving Memory of Billy Eldest Son of Wm. & H.J.E. Hickingbotham – Till We Meet Again’. The CWGC website confirms that he ‘Died of Wounds [Gas]’.
William is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate and was awarded the Victory and British medals.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on William Hickingbotham was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, December 2017.
 Information from Military Service Record.
 Weekly Casualty List (War Office & Air Ministry ), Tuesday, 21 August 1917.