Private Gilbert Charles Dickens

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte G C Dickens, MM
Royal Army Service Corps, Motor Transport
MS/933
Died of wounds, 16.2.1919
Age, 26

Gilbert Charles Dickens (sometimes recorded as Dickins) grew up in Paddington, where he was born on 18 July 1892 and was to be buried in 1919. The son of Charles William and Mary Anne Dickens, both Londoners, he was baptised at St. Jude’s Church, Kensal Green on 18 September 1892. The family lived at 418, Harrow Road and five years later on 23 September 1897 Gilbert‘s education began at Harrow Road School. In 1901 the Dickens family, parents, Gilbert and his two older sisters still lived in Paddington and Charles Dickens earned his living as a cab driver. Ten years later Gilbert was working as a motor fitter and living with his parents and sister Charlotte at 128, Ashmore Road, Paddington.

Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914; Gilbert Dickens enlisted, in London, on 9 August. He stood five feet and eleven inches tall, had grey eyes, a pale complexion and brown hair. Gilbert was a motor lorry driver and joined what was then the Army Service Corps as an ambulance driver. He embarked for France on 5 September 1914 and his service with the British Expeditionary Force there lasted until 5 August 1918. Gilbert was attached initially to 19th Field Ambulance. This was a mobile front line medical unit operated by the Royal Army Medical Corps and by the end of 1914 each one had seven motor ambulances.

By 1918 Gilbert was part of the 16th Field Ambulance of the 16th Brigade in the 6th Division. This division was one of those that faced the onslaught of the German Spring Offensive at the Battle of St. Quentin from 21 to 23 March 1918.This was a period of frenzied and desperate fighting: on the first day 3.2 million German shells were launched in five hours; fog covered the German advance; on the night of 21st/22nd some British divisions were reeling, dense fighting ensued; the next day dawned to a heavy mist, fierce combat did not prevent the Germans breaking through to the British reserve line by the evening and on the 23rd they were facing disaster with a near 40 mile breach in the their line with reserves ordered in. On this day, Gilbert suffered terrible injuries; gunshot wounds to both legs and both arms including a fractured femur.

He was taken to the 47th General Hospital at Le Treport, near Dieppe. On 18 May he was awarded the Military Medal. This honour was bestowed for individual or group acts of bravery on the battle field on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief in the field. He may have sustained his multiple injuries in such an act. In early August Gilbert returned home to hospital in London. By this point his parents and sister lived at 9, Woodside Cottages, Waverley Road in Weybridge. He died of his wounds and pneumonia in the King George Hospital, Stamford Street, London, SE1 on 16 February 1919. Family members were with him. Four days later his mother died of influenza and pneumonia at her Weybridge home.

Gilbert’s total military service amounted to 4 years and 191 days. He was laid to rest in Paddington Cemetery (2 G 15153) – a final homecoming.

Sources:

British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1917, www.ancestry.co.uk
London, England, School Admissions and Discharges, 1840-1911, www.ancestry.co.uk
Operation Michael, www.cwgc.org
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – Field Ambulances in the First World War, www.longlongtrail.co.uk

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