Thomas Strange Wickham, born on 2nd June 1878, was admitted to King Edward’s School in January 1893. He lived with his father, Thomas, a wine merchant, his mother, Dorothy, and two of his siblings at 3, St. Augustine’s Road, Edgbaston.
Thomas was in the Upper Modern Seventh Class, studying a primarily scientific, rather than classical, curriculum. He was an able linguist, coming 4th in his class of 18 boys for French and 6th for German, though his performance in science was weaker. Thomas was also a versatile and talented sportsman. He participated in the 1894 boxing display, the Chronicle recording that he “both gave and received some very straight blows”. He was Captain of the 1st XV rugby team, weighing 10st 11lbs with a height of at 5 feet 11 inches, described as “an energetic and hard-working forward”. At cricket, he was described as “one of the school’s best bats”.
After leaving School, Thomas became a career soldier. He joined the Matebele Mounted Police in 1896 and served in the Matebele Campaign and the Jameson Raid. During the Boer War, he served as a Trooper in the South African Light Horse; he was mentioned in despatches four times and received the Distinguished Service Order, the Queen’s Medal with six clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. He then served with the West African Frontier Force from 25th June 1904 onwards.
At the outbreak of war, Thomas was gazetted as a Captain with the West African Frontier Force (Nigeria Regiment). On 25th August 1914, he was part of a British force carrying out a reconnaissance from Yola in Nigeria. It had crossed the Anglo-German frontier and met with some resistance in its occupation of Tepe. What happened next is recorded in the School Chronicle of December 1914:
“Captain T. S. Wickham, DSO, had taken a German officer a prisoner, and placing his hand on the prisoner’s shoulder, he made the remark, “You are my prisoner”. The German cried out for mercy, and begged that his life might be spared, and at the same time his orderly was told to respect the Englishman. Captain Wickham then turned round to ask his Commanding Officer what he should do with the prisoner, when the German officer’s orderly brought up his rifle, shot Captain Wickham in the throat, and practically blew his head off—nothing more terrible could have happened. Needless to say, the German was at once shot, together with his orderly, in addition to which the village of Tepe was burnt to the ground.”
Thomas is commemorated on the Zaria Memorial, Nigeria, and on the War Memorial in Bideford, Devon.