PRIVATE ERNEST ROBERT LOUIS HICKS
CANADIAN RAILWAY TROOPS
12TH FEBRUARY 1919 AGE 21
BURIED: HUY (LA SARTE) COMMUNAL CEMETERY, LIEGE, BELGIUM
Ernest Hick's assurance that he'd 'come back' was not to be. Despite the fact that his service with a Military Transport Company of the Canadian Railway Troops meant that Hicks was not a front-line soldier, with all the dangers that that entailed, he did not return. There is no record of how he met his death but there is a large chance that he was a victim of the influenza pandemic, which flared up again in February 1919.
Hicks was born in Eastbourne, Sussex in 1897; the youngest of his parents' four children. The family were still in Eastbourne in 1911 but all of them, except the eldest, Herbert, appear to have emigrated to Canada. Ernest and his parents were certainly in Canada when he enlisted in October 1917.
Hicks was a coil winder in civilian life, which perhaps indicates a certain mechanical skill and explains his service with an MT Company. However, although soldiers were employed for their technical skills, the Canadian military authorities insisted that they should all be trained as soldiers so that they could fight if necessary. And it was certainly necessary at least once when members of the Canadian Railway Troops were ordered to help defend Amiens during the last few days of March 1918.
William Richard Hicks chose his son's inscription. He wasn't the only parent to highlight the tragic irony of a casualty's words: Lieutenant Hill's inscription reads,"I'm all right mother, cheerio"; Private Cole's, His last words at home were "I shall be alright mother",and Private Hutchinson's, Tell mother not to worry.