Saturday, January 02, 2016

6155 Pte Frank Chivers Dixon, 1st Wiltshire Regiment

6155 Private Frank Chivers Dixon was a convalescent patient at Hickwells in 1915. His (by today’s standards) politically incorrect entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

6155 Pte F C Dixon
1st Bn Wiltshire Regt

Wounded at Dixebusch Nr Ypres
May 11th 1915

God made the nigger
He made him in the night
He made him in a hurry
And forgot to make him white


He shares this page with entries from 2229 Trooper Alfred Rock of the Royal Horse Guards, 6271 Private Ernest Whitcomb of the 1st Middlesex Regiment, 22002 Private D Jones of the Army Service Corps and 1921 Private James William Salmon of the 4th Royal Fusiliers.

Frank Dixon was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in August 1881. He appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 197 Cricklade Road, Swindon, Wiltshire. The household comprised: George Dixon (head, married, aged 44, working as a shoe maker), his wife Jane Dixon (aged 40) and seven children: Henry William A Dixon (aged 15, working as a shop boy), Annie Kate C Dixon (aged 13), Frank (aged nine), Walter Fred Dixon (aged seven), Sidney Gilbert Dixon (aged six), Wilfred Dixon (aged two) and Beatrice Dixon (aged one).

By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had moved to 22 Devizes Road and the household had shrunk somewhat. George Dixon is recorded as a shoe finisher. Living with him and his wife Jane were Frank (aged 19, working as a bolt maker), Sidney (aged 16), working as a printer’s compositor. Wilfred (aged 12) and Ernest L P Dixon (aged seven).

Frank had enlisted in the 3rd Wiltshire Militia on 29th December 1899 whilst living in Old Swindon, attesting for a period of six years. His attestation papers give his age as eighteen years and four months whereas his medical record sheet, dated 30th December 1899, notes his apparent age as seventeen years and ten months. He was given the service number 6183.

On 16th December 1902, he enlisted in the regular army giving his age as twenty-one years and three months. He was given the service number 6155. On 13th February 1903, he completed his Certificate of Education (3rd Class) and on 18th July that same year, whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment, extended his period of army service to complete eight years with the colours. The date on which his army service would expire was given as 15th December 1910.

On 8th September 1904, Private Dixon completed his Certificate of Education (2nd Class) and followed this up on 26th September 1905 with the Certificate of Education (1st Class).

On 16th December 1910, he was transferred to the Army Reserve on the expiration of his army service. He was 29 years and three months old and by this time, living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He gave his trade as Labourer although for the past four years he had been employed in the army canteen. His conduct sheet reported his service as ‘exemplary’ and he had received two good conduct badges. Distinguishing marks were noted as a tattoo of a butterfly on his right forearm and a bugle on his left forearm. Frank must have had these tattoos done during his time with the militia. On transfer to the Reserve he gave his intended place of residence as 64 Havelock Road, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa.

On 15th August 1914, still on the Army Reserve, Frank Dixon re-joined the colours and by 22nd October was in France with the 1st Wiltshire Regiment which formed part of the 7th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Division.

On 13th December 1914, he was admitted to No 8 Clearing Hospital at Bailleul suffering from the effects of cold and two days later was transferred to No 12 General Hospital at Rouen with rheumatism. On 24th December he was sent home to England. He was admitted to hospital in Weymouth on 17th February 1915 with gastritis and discharged on the 24th.

On April 27th 1915 he rejoined his battalion in France and was wounded in action at Dickebusch on 11th May. He was admitted to No 18 General Hospital at Boulogne two days later with a severe gun shot wound to his right thigh and on 17th May was returned to England. From 20th May to 12th September 1915 he was at West Hall VAD hospital and during that time, also spent time convalescing at Hickwells. (As can be seen, his autograph entry in Nurse Oliver’s album is dated 23rd July 1915).

On 12th September 1915 he was discharged from West Hall and it was reported that his wound was now healed and he was walking quite well.

On 15th December 1915, Private Frank Dixon was discharged from A Coy, 3rd Wilts Regt at Littlemore Camp in consequence of “the termination of his first period of engagement.” (Para 392 (xxi) King’s Regulations. He was described as 34 years and three months old, five feet, five inches tall with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He had completed exactly 13 years’ service (including the additional "bounty year" which he had been obliged to complete as his country was at war) and returned to South Africa. Had he still been in England in January 1916, whether he liked it or not, he would have been conscripted. Nevertheless, his military character was described as “exemplary” and by the time he was discharged he had been awarded a further good conduct badge.

The war diary of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment (WO95/1415), gives more details of the action in which he was wounded. On 1st May 1915 the battalion was at rest at Dickebusch, moving the following day to Elzenwalle. “Marched from Dickebusch and took over P sector of the trenches, relieving HAC. 3 men wounded.” The battalion remained at Elzenwalle until 11th May when it was “relieved by HAC about 9pm. 1 killed, 1 wounded.”

As only one wounded casualty was recorded on this day it can be reasonably assumed that this man was Frank Dixon. During their spell in the trenches at Elzenwalle from 1st - 11th May in what the diary describes variously as a “quiet”, “fairly quiet” or “very quiet” period, the following casualties are recorded:

Officers: 1 killed
Other Ranks: 3 killed, 15 wounded.

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