"You got into a state of mind in the end, when you rather hoped something would hit you."
Second lieutenant W J Brockman
This photograph appeared in the local paper accompanied by the following (the event described is recorded in the Riverhead School diary as taking place on October 10th 1919):
"SERGT. WILLIAM DICKMAN
Memorial unveiled in Riverhead School
A large number of residents of the village surrounded by the senior scholars gathered in Riverhead School on Friday afternoon to witness the unveiling of a memorial to the late Sergt. William Dickman.
The ceremony was performed by the Earl Amherst who said that they had gathered to honour the action of a brave man who had been killed in France in the service of his King and Country on 24th April 1918. Sergt. Dickman was well known in Riverhead as he had lived all his life in the village and had for a period of 20 years been a teacher in their school. This memorial would remind them of his life and work in the years to come and if ever the necessity arose when they in turn might have to go to fight for their country his example would be before them to inspire them to perform brave deeds. He would now unveil this memorial in solemn and proud memory of Sergt. William Dickman.
As Lord Amherst spoke he released the cord which held the Union Jack in place and the grand old flag fell gracefully and hung appropriately by the side of the simple but effective oak tablet over which hung a photograph of him whose path of duty had proved the way to glory. Beneath the tablet made by gentle hands in loving memory hung a laurel wreath.
The inscription on the tablet in letters of gold was as follows:
" In affectionate rembrance of William Dickman. Assistant
Teacher 1898 to 1918. Sergt. Royal West Kent Regiment who fell in
action at Villers Bretoneux Northern France on April 24th 1918 aged
For God, for King, For Country."
Mr W D Weth said that Mr Dickman had been with him more than any other one as boy, as youth and as man. He was a man in his life and in sport and in the war he had played the man. To the boys present he would say that if ever they were inclined to be lazy or indifferent they should just turn their eyes toward the memorial and, remembering Mr Dickman, follow his example.
It is worthy of note that the tablet was made from a bit of oak taken from Montreal Estate and kindly given for the purpose by the Earl Amherst and that money principally subscribed by old schoolboys, schoolboys and teachers was collected by Mrs Bowra.
Sergt William Dickman whose memory had thus been honoured was the elder son of the late Mr Dickman for many years employed on Montreal Estate and of Mrs Dickman of Sunnybank, Riverhead in addition to whom he left a widow and one child to mourn their loss.
He enlisted early in 1915 and quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant. He proceeded to France in September 1917 where his devotion to duty was quickly recognised by his CO and he was subsequently recommended for a commission but fate decreed that this was not to be. As an athlete and all-round sportsman Riverhead lost, perhaps, its most popular and consistent figure. For many years as Captain of the Holmesdale Football Club he led the "Dales" to victory and at cricket he was a most reliable bat but as Honorary Secretary of the Holmesdale Ground Committee, which was responsible for arranging the annual Athletic Sports, his energy and wonderful powers of organisation won the admiration of his fellows and always made the event a huge success. Of a cheerful disposition, ever ready to lend a helping hand, his whole life was wrapped up in "playing the game".
His records have not survived but the Riverhead School diary records William Dickman giving notice that he had enlisted into the RWKR (Cyclists Battalion) on Saturday 8th May 1915. He had been born in Bramshill, Hampshire. His Father was a James Dickman and his Mother was Susan. The 1911 census reveals that James Dickman worked at the Montreal Park Estate in Riverhead as a "Butler (Gentleman's Service)". William (then aged 26) was recorded as "Elemt School Teacher".
The 1901 census reveals that William had a brother, Ernest (three years William's junior). The family were living at Sunnybank, Riverhead. Ernest does not appear on the 1911 census but had probably left home by then. Ernest also fought in the war but appears to have survived it.
As recorded in the newspaper report, William Dickman left behind a wife and child. He had married Maud Cate Kennedy in 1915 in Riverhead - presumably on or about the date of enlistment. Their daughter Joan Maud was born on 1st April 1918. Her Father died when she was just 23 days old. A newspaper report of the time confirms that Father and Daughter never met.
It is likely that he died in the Second Battle of Villers Brettoneux as part of the German Spring offensive. The War Diary Intelligence Summary for that day for his Battallion records a counter attack in the following manner:
"Counter attacked at 10pm. Objectives gained but not held. Relieved at night
in front of Cachy by Morroccan Division. Proceeded to rear. BOVES"
His wife, Maud, remarried (to a Charles Hall) in 1924. They had a daughter, Ann Pauline Hall, in 1929. Maud died in 1947. The two half sisters emigrated to the USA together. A permanent residence was recorded for Joan as Whirlpool Street, Niagara Falls NY in 1950. The last record is of them both arriving on a ship into Southampton in 1953, presumably to visit Ann's Father.
HEADSTONE OF WILLIAM DICKMAN
ADELAIDE CEMETERY, VILLERS-BRETTONEUX