Luton's youngest soldier

He's not very big, but he's a smart little fellow. That's how the Beds and Herts Saturday Telegraph of November 28th, 1914, described Luton's youngest soldier, 4ft 11in tall Trumpeter Reginald George Hickman, who had enlisted in the East Anglian Royal Engineers (Reserve Unit).

Trumpeter Hickman, the only son of George and Elizabeth Hickman, of Oaklands, Biscot Road, Luton, was pictured shoulder-high to 2nd Cpl J. Collins, also from Luton. The one thing missing from the report was Reginald's age - he was actually 16 years and one month old (born on August 11th, 1898) when he enlisting for four years in the Reserve Unit when it was formed at Luton early in September 1914.

His father, originally from Islington, was a motorcycle manufacturer trading as Ryto, at 21a New Bedford Road, and Reginald could ride a motorcycle as well as horses. Before the war he had attended Luton Modern School and been a Boy Scout with an ambition of "soldiering". Immediately before enlisting he worked in the drawing office at George Kent's engineering works.

His military record shows he joined 487th East Anglian Field Coy, Royal Engineers, 20th Depot, on September 7th, 1914, "apparent age 17" although his date of birth is given as August 24th, 1914. His initial service number was 1512, later changed to 52498, and he became a driver.

Reginald signed up for foreign service on August 13th, 1915, but appears not to have left the UK. His "soldiering" career seems to have gone well initially, earning a two-year good service stripe. But something must have gone wrong in the summer of 1917 when he was confined to barracks for seven days for disobeying orders/insolence, 14 days CB for being absent from parade for 2½ hours, four days CB for having having another man's kit in his possession, plus docked pay for neglect of duty and overstaying his leave. He then spent a month in hospital in December 1917-January 1918 suffering from muscular rheumatism.

Reginald was finally discharged from the colours on January 17th, 1919.

In 1924 Reginald married Doris Durrant (born 1902) and following her death in 1958 at the age of 56 he was remarried in 1960, to Ivy Jackson. He died in Luton in October 1984 at the age of 86.

Census records show that in 1901 the Hickman family were living at 74 Old Bedford Road and by 1911 had moved to 196 Dunstable Road with a fourth member, Reginald's sister Grace Marjorie, then aged nine.