Sgt Tom Hicks - 1 Para Sqn RE Veteran - Obituary


Also posted on the wider ARRSE Obituaries Thread, but I leave this here for Sapper posterity:

Sgt Tom Hicks, 1st Parachute Squadron RE, passed away on the 24 Jan at the thoroughly Airborne age of 101.

OBITUARY 1898627 Sapper Thomas ‘Tom’ Hicks 14 August 1919 – 24th January 2021

Tom was born in August 1919 in Widnes, Lancashire. His family moved to Nuneaton in Warwickshire and then in 1932 moved to Royston near Barnsley in Yorkshire where he spent most of the rest of his life. When he left school, he started as a grocery delivery boy then in November 1934 joined the London Midland and Scottish Railway where he remained until the late 1930’s. With the threat of war and National Service being introduced Tom volunteered in 1939 for the Army and given his railway background was enlisted in the Royal Engineers and sent to the railway branch. However, after a couple of years of this Tom had had enough and after seeing an order asking for ‘airborne engineers’ he volunteered. Tom passed the physical examination and after selection was sent to RAF Ringway to learn how to parachute. He was a member of course 15 which ran in June 1942 and he successfully passed. He was posted to 1st Parachute Squadron RE and a few months later left with his unit for North Africa as part of the 1st Parachute Brigade. The Squadron were there to support the Brigade in basic engineering functions but also to fight as infantry.

After North Africa Tom took part in the Sicily campaign, target Primosole Bridge, and two months later sailed for Tarranto in Italy. But he arrived there having been ill for three days with a stomach abscess and the first symptoms of malaria. He was immediately evacuated back to a hospital in Sousse where he remained for four or five weeks. He and the Squadron returned to England in late 1943 and settled into life at Donington near Spalding in Lincolnshire. Tom was a member of C Troop – one of about 150 men in the Squadron.

For the Arnhem operation most of C Troop were to support the 3rd Parachute Battalion using Tiger route to get to the road bridge – but Tom was not amongst this number. Around 12 men from the Troop were left behind at DZ X at Renkum to assist with collecting wounded men and also collecting supplies and equipment. So, this is how Tom and other members of the unit ended up in Oosterbeek rather than Arnhem as around half of the Squadron did. He had a few adventures over his time at Arnhem including a patrol to the Driel ferry site and indeed crossing the river by that ferry and also an incident in which his best friend Henry Sherwood was killed.

Tom was wounded towards the end of the Oosterbeek perimeter fighting in the Sonnenberg area and taken prisoner on the 26th September 1944. He was recorded as being at Apeldoorn and left as one of the walking wounded party on 3rd October 1944 to POW camp in Germany. Tom’s train took four days to reach Fallingbostel where he was given the POW number of 118259. He started working in a lead mine on 27 October and continued in the mine at Bad Grund until 7 April 1945.

Tom was liberated on 11 April and soon after his return to England was back at his old camp Longmoor as a locomotive driver. He had to wait until June 1946 to be demobbed and when he left the Army resumed his career on the railways mainly as a driver until he retired aged 63. He married Sadie in 1946 and they had two sons. One of whom, Norman, wrote a book on his father’s experiences called Captured at Arnhem which was published in 2013. Tom was a keen tennis player and was still playing in his 90’s. On retiring in 1982 he took up parachuting again and for many years jumped either as a solo or as a tandem over Ginkel Heath on the Saturday of the Arnhem commemoration. His last jump was made in 2007, aged 88. When he gave this up, he still attended on many occasions and was well known in the Fellowship tent on the Heath, his last visit being in 2019 aged 100. He was particularly proud to be in attendance at the Arnhem-Oosterbeek Cemetery in 2015, when the grave of an unknown soldier buried in 2004 was rededicated as that of his best friend and comrade in 1944, Sapper Harry Sherwood.

With the passing of Tom, it is a sad loss and we believe this leaves just one member of the 1st Parachute Squadron left.
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