Whaddon is a seemingly innocuous village, somewhat more hamlet like than village. It lies just outside of Gloucester city limits. Its church when I visited was covered with a myriad of scaffolding and barricades which perhaps detracted a little from the pretty outlook over the surrounding countryside, and the edge of the Cotswold ridgeline.
In the grounds of the church, one war grave from World War One sits in amicable silence. Remembrance crosses are scattered around it as if to signify that this man has not been forgot. His name – Albert Wicks. He died in a war hospital in Bristol in that post-war period when men died of wounds, lingering illness or the flu. Albert had served overseas, a Private in the Gloucestershire Regiment – his death on the 17th February 1919 must have cut-deep. But at least here, they never forget him.
Across the way, a more quiet memorial to a fallen Gloster boy. There are no signs of remembrance for him save the words upon this family grave. His name – Frederick Thomas Wixey.
It seems fit that in this part of the country where the oval ball rules perhaps above religion that I should use the words they used to describe this man of Gloucester.
Wixey was one of the rough and ready forwards, always in the thick of the fray, and that he went down with his face to the foe, if he has gone down at all, is a certainty.
Written in the Gloucestershire Echo on the 27th July 1916, Fred had been missing since the 3rd of July. A member of the ‘red and black’ of Cheltenham Rugby Football Club; a man who had learned his hard man trade in the hotbed of Gloucester where rugby is only played one way. News had just reached the club that another of their strong men had been killed fighting in the war – Dan Sullivan.
Fred Wixey and his brother Harry had been stalwarts of the Cheltenham club; whilst his brother did war work in Cheltenham, Fred enlisted in Gloucester.
Fred served with the 8th (Service) Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment which was formed in Bristol in 1914, moved to Salisbury Plain to train in early 1915 and was sent to France in July 1915 as part of the 57th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division.
He left family in Tuffley, Gloucester including his wife Rose who he had married in 1909 at Whaddon church.
The 8th Glosters were at La Boiselle on the Somme on the 3rd July 1916. They consolidated the line and pushed forward all through that day and night. By the end of that day, 9 men died and there were 81 men missing presumed dead from the 8th. One of those was Fred Wixey. He was last seen on the 3rd July 1916 and he was listed as missing presumed dead on that date.
Fred Wixey has no known grave. His body lost to the elements of war but his name remains on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme. One of the many strong men whose legacy holds those memorial tall. One of the 81 men of the 8th Glosters whose names hold up the walls of Thiepval, whose bodies were never found.
His mother Alice had died in 1914 but when his father Charles Thomas Wixey died in 1937, someone added Frederick Thomas Wixey’s name below those of his parents:
Also of their beloved son
Frederick Thomas Wixey
Killed in action on the Somme
3rd July 1916 aged 28
Although the grass grows through the stones that line their grave. The words speak true enough. No grave exists for that man save this.
Once war was over, Cheltenham RFC counted their losses – so many losses. Promises made to remember their friends were kept. Their names remain to this day a forefront of their history. Fred Wixey’s name remains on their Roll of Honour. He was not lost to history. They are called the Cheltenham Tigers now.
These are the names of the men of the Great War whose memorials lie at Whaddon in Gloucestershire:
Private Frederick Thomas Wixey
DoB 1886 Elmore, Gloucestershire DoD 3rd July 1916 Somme, France age 28/30
12904 8th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial to the missing, Somme, France