Ovillers Military Cemetery
Cross of Sacrifice
Ovillers Military Cemetery is situated 1 km north of La Boisselle. It originated as a battle cemetery behind a dressing station. After Armistice, it was expanded as the fallen from the battlefields of Pozieres, Ovillers, La Boisselle and Contalmaison were buried in the cemetery.
The Cemetery contains 3,440 graves of which 2,480 are unidentified. Of the 960 identified casualties, 290 are recorded as bring killed on 1st July. The proximity to La Boisselle and lying on the top of what was called Mash Valley the effect on the Tyneside Brigades who advanced can be seen, with 76 Tyneside Scottish and 27 Tyneside Irish graves. There are many unidentified Tyneside Scots, many of who would have probably lost their lives on 1st July 1916.
Whilst the infantry bore the brunt of the casualties on the first day of the Somme, the Gunners were firing in support and suffered counter battery fire. The Ovillers Cemetery contains one Gunner who was killed on the 1st July - Second Lieutenant William Christie Hickman, RFA.
2nd. Lieut. Hickman was serving with 'B' Battery175 (South Staffordshire) Brigade Royal Field Artillery, part of the 34th Divisional Artillery. Born in 1889/90, he was educated at Marlborough College, then proceeded to Caius College Cambridge, where hr gained a MA. After Cambridge he went to Canada, returning home on the outbreak of war.
After joining the Army he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery 17th May 1916.
2nd Lieut. William Christie Hickman
Royal Field Artillery
He joined the 175 (South Staffordshire) Brigade on the Somme in France.
The Brigade, as part of the 34th Divisional Artillery were deployed just outside Albert, north of the road to Bapaume.
On 2th June 1916 the start of what would be 6 days of bombardment commenced. The 175th Brigade's prime task was wire cutting in the area of the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade.
On the 1st July the Brigade were firing a creeping barrage in support of the 4 Tyneside Scottish Battalions, the War Diary recording hearing their Pipers leading the men into Battle. The German artillery retaliated and shelled the gun lines. In the ensuring chaos, 2nd. Lieut. Hickman was posted missing, but a statement from a wounded soldier in hospital confirmed he had been killed on the 1st July was killed by the first German shell to hit the gun position. William Christie's wife was informed of his death in a telegram she received on 15th July 1916.
Second Lieutenant William Christie Hickman is buried in Ovillers Military Cemetery.
2nd. Lieut. William Christie Hickman
KIA 1st July 1916