William Bernard Hickie

William Bernard Hickie was a major-general in World War 1 in which he achieved fame as the commander of the 16th (Irish) Division. He served in the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902, was AQMG in the Irish Command from 1912 to 1914 and served throughout World War I from 1914 to 1918. He commanded a Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 and was Commander of the 16th (Irish) Division from 1915 on the Western Front.

He was born in Slevoir in County Tipperary on 21st May 1865 into a Catholic family with a long history of military service. He was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers in 1885 while they were in Gibraltar, and was with them for 13 years, in the Mediterranean, Egypt and India. After Staff College he was a Special Service Officer in the Boer War, first as a Captain of Mounted Infantry and later commanded a column for 18 months. In 1907 he was back with the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers in Ireland, and commanded them from 1909 to 1912.

He was a Brigadier-General at the outbreak of WW1 and held a staff post in the BEF, then brigade command until Dec 1915 when he took command of the 16th (Irish) Division. He was a popular choice and made great improvements. The Division gained a reputation for fighting qualities at Giuillemont, Ginchy, Messines, 3rd Ypres, and Bullecourt in the Battle of Cambrai. Whilst he was away on sick leave his division was taken over by General Hubert Gough and it was wiped out. He retired from the army in 1922 with the rank of Major-General and awarded with the CB and KCB.

His post war career was as an Irish Nationalist Politician, gaining a seat in the Seanad of the Irish Free State until it was dissolved in 1936. He supported John Redmond's Home Rule and condemned the activities of the Black and Tans. He also worked tirelessly for the welfare of Irish ex-servicemen. He never married, and died on 3rd Nov 1950 in Dublin. He was buried in Terryglass, co Tipperary.

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by Stephen Luscombe