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Quorn WW1 Roll of Honour - Fred Wykes

Died 21st April 1916, aged 24
Hooge, Ypres, Belgium

Roots in Quorn

Fred Wykes was born and baptised in Quorn in 1892, despite the family home at that time being 76 Edward Street, Edgley in Stockport in Cheshire. His parents, Albert and Jane Wykes had five children and Fred was the third, although the two youngest had died as infants.

Fred’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Wykes (née Johnson), was born in Quorn, and she and her husband Thomas, (Fred’s grandfather), had at least eleven children and lived in the village for most of their married lives, from 1870 until their deaths in 1894 and 1909. They are both buried in Quorn Churchyard.

After living in Stockport, Albert, Jane and their family moved to Scotland to Strathearne House, 22, Preston Crescent, Inverkeithing, Fife, and can be found there on the 1911 census. Both Fred and his father were sett makers in the local quarry, using skills that Albert learnt at Mountsorrel Quarry.

Emigration to Canada
In the early 1900s, all over Britain, many people, especially young men, were travelling to all parts of the ‘New World’, attracted by promises of better lives. Fred’s elder brother Herbert had emigrated to Canada in 1907, and on 22nd February 1912, Fred boarded a ship in Liverpool to join him. Herbert married in 1914 and Canada became his permanent home. Fred settled there, but when war broke out, like many other British men living in Canada, he joined the Canadian Forces. It was July 1915 when Fred joined the 60th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. He is recorded as being 5 feet 6 inches tall with brown eyes and red hair.

WW1 letters from Fred
Some of Fred’s wartime letters to his family still survive and his descendent, John Stanyard (Fred’s first cousin twice removed), has very kindly allowed the inclusion of the extracts below:

February 1916
“Dear all, Just a line or two before we leave here on Sunday sometime. This will be my last letter from England so it may be a bit before you hear from me again. But don't bother about me as in this life from now on we will have to write when we can. Herbert you seem to think you are not doing your bit but there are only two of us and I say it is up to you now to look after mother and Dad if they need it. I can't at present, but I go knowing they are all right and if everybody sends 1 out of 2 there will be no [kick?]. I know quite well if I had been in your place I would not have listed but having no ties I thought it was my place. Don't think of my card and think you should be in uniform. There is nothing I would have liked better to have you alongside me in the line but I am better pleased the way it is. I know mother and Dad will be OK so cheer up old boy and wait for me coming back again.“

February 1916
“We are not allowed to send more than one letter a week and three of the cards. I sent one to you so you see don't expect a lot of mail from me. You will have to forward my letters to Amy and 160 and let the others know. There is a lot of snow here and pretty cold too. We came 2 days in cattle cars from ___ to where we are now. The paper is dirty - so am I - but we must go through with it now. I am standing up to write this so excuse the writing. Things are much the same with me - in pretty good health and best of spirits. Mother if you ever hear of me taking rum, don't bother as it will be needed for me to take it so you will just have to leave that to me now.”

7th March 1916
“So far we have lost 2 men. I am sending this letter home as I have a green envelope and we can send more than one letter home in this envelope. I hear there are [an] other 2 men gone pretty quick but I guess we will have a lot more than that some of these fine days. The weather does not get much better yet; snow and one thing and another makes it pretty rotten but I guess the weather will soon be a lot better. I hear I am in for it Monday for not being on parade this afternoon but I have no boots so I can't go out. I guess the weather is breaking up now in Canada. Well I hope it won't be many winters before I am back in the land of the living; this is the land of the Dead. You might give me a little war news in your letters. We know nothing here - only of what goes on in our lines.”

March 1916
“We are getting along pretty well; only the weather is bad - rain and snow makes things bad for us. My ink has gone and my pen broke so I guess my letters will be in pencil after this. It is not much use sending a pen as they get broken so easy. Let me know if the lead gets rubbed out. There has been some putting more than all they should put in the letters. Do any of mine get opened and rubbed out? I hope not as I try to keep in bounds. I hear the fighting was pretty heavy this last few days. Now about that 4 pounds I left at home - well there was 2 pounds left to mother for London but I guess it is still there so it might be spent as lying dead. I know fine you won't use it, so I will this way: 2 pounds mother, 10/- [50p] Priss, 1 pound Dad and 10/-myself. Priss get after the 10/-. I know old Dad. Mother should either go to London or get her silk blouse. Split it up right away. Get 10/-worth of stuff for me. There are what they call trench socks. See if you can get them then get what you think fits.”

13th March 1917
“I thought I had had some rough life in Canada but nothing in a line with this. The snow is going very fast now - good job as it is not very comfortable under foot - wet feet all the time. Send a pair of socks along once in a while.”

Late March 1916
“You may not hear of me for a week now even longer but if I get a chance you will get an all-is-well card. We had a bath today - feel a bit better. I hope the words of your card are answered. I know my job. The sergeant who I had the bother with always picks me if there is something on and he has me again for a bum job not for spite but he thinks that the Devil-care boys are the best and they are out here happy-go-lucky and they always come out best in the long run. If I could tell you what I was on your hair would stand on end but it is nothing; others do it and so can I. We get to think nothing about it; going to the trenches is as much to us as you going out for a walk. I had a letter from 113 yesterday and Herbert says I will have a great nephew to go back to. I hope not long now. Won't that be great. I am looking forward to that time. Something tells me I will be OK and with your help it will. We are just making a fire and making ready for a sing-song before lights out.”

2nd April 1916
“We are having hard weather to stand. We went into the trenches and it snowed all the time pretty hard to stand but we can't have many comforts here so no use of jumping [?] now - take things as they come and smile. Send along socks once in a while as they are worth more than money. I used 6 pair in a day so you see they are handy to have in the kit, and wet feet are not very good. Priss you were saying you often wondered what kind of bed we had - never go to bed lie [lying?] down. We are all in pretty good health and as long as we have that we should be all right.”

Fred’s last letter: Thought to be 18th April 1916
“Dear Sister Brother & nephew Here we are again Tuesday I think it is but the date I could not say anyway. I know pay day is Saturday so we should worry. Priss sent your letters on to me. I was glad to hear everybody at 113 & 160 were OK. I wish you could hear what I hear tonight as we sit in our dug-out, fine sound for a poor nerve I don't think. So mother has turned 60 and is getting along. It is 8 days since I had my clothes off and may be a little more yet. I forgot all about birthdays lately. I know yours is in April. This letter is half ink and pencil some way to write but anything these days. I see by your letters Bob is OK. I guess he must be a sturdy chap now. He will wonder who I am if I ever make 160 again. One of your letters said that you had a Saturday afternoon of ____ playing in the room - made me feel kind of lonesome - it must be fine Herbert. Well I guess I will quit now hoping this finds everybody in the pink as it leaves me first Class up to the eyes in Dirt. I remain your loving Brother,

Killed in action
Fred was killed on Good Friday, 21st April 1916, aged just 24. He was shot by a sniper’s bullet through the head. The War Diary for the day records the trenches at that time as being knee deep in slime and water, with a dreadful unsanitary smell. It is recorded that Fred volunteered to carry out a job in an exposed position saying that he would do it as he was single and didn’t have any responsibilities.

Remembering Fred
Fred was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. His family also received a bronze memorial plaque engraved with his name, as issued in the case of every soldier’s death. In addition, because Fred was a member of the Canadian forces, his mother received a silver Memorial Cross on a purple ribbon, from the Canadian Government, engraved with Fred’s service number, rank and name. This was awarded to every widow and mother of every Canadian soldier and sailor who died in WW1. A woman was entitled to wear the cross as it was given in recognition of the loss and sacrifice she had suffered.

Fred’s family took his death very hard and coped by trying to avoid keeping painful reminders of Fred around.

Fred is buried in Menin Road South Military Cemetery in Belgium. He is also commemorated on Quorn War Memorial, the war memorial in Inverkeithing and on the official Canadian Virtual Memorial on the internet. Although Fred had left Quorn, the village continued to remember him, as two of his uncles and various other relations were still living locally. In 2014 Quorn named a new road Wykes Close, in memory of both Fred and Ezra Wykes.

1) Fred (on the right) and his father Albert working in the quarry in Inverkeithing.
2) Fred and his sister Priss

 view larger image
 Submitted on: 2020-01-11
 Submitted by: Sue Templeman with many thanks to John and Cindy Stanyard
 Artefact ID: 2266
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page or just on its own.

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