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Dr George Charles WILLCOCKS MC OBE


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Major 12/10/1888 26y10m 24/10/1920 2
Major George Charles Willcocks (1888 - 1972)
OBE MC MB ChM Sydney(1913) MRCP(1920) FRCP(1932)

Family background and early life

George Charles Willcocks was born at Coorparoo on 20 October 1888, the eldest son of George Charles Windsor Willcocks (Queensland railway contractor) and Mary Ann née Craig.

Link to Saint Andrew's

Mr and Mrs Willcocks and their family of three girls and two boys lived at Wynberg in New Farm and attended Wickham Terrace (later Saint Andrew’s) Presbyterian Church.

Education and sport

George attended Brisbane Grammar School from February 1903 to April 1908, passing the Junior Public Examination in 1905 and the Senior Examination in 1907. He played cricket in the 1st XI from 1904 to 1907 and captained it in 1906 and 1907. He was a member of the 1st Football XV in 1906 and 1907.

At the University of Sydney, George Willcocks studied medicine and graduated MB, ChM in 1913.  Again excelling in sport, he won blues for cricket and football. He took up residency at Sydney Hospital as a medical officer.

Enlistment and service

In July 1915, George Willcocks enlisted as a captain in the medical officers unit of the Australian Infantry Force to serve overseas in the Great War. His unit embarked from Adelaide on board HMAT Geelong on 18 November 1915. He first served on hospital ships and field ambulance stations while based at Mudros on the island of Lemnos and as Assistant Medical Officer, 12th Battalion at Serapeum, Egypt.

In France he served continuously with the 2nd Field Ambulance.  He was mentioned in despatches1 and awarded the Military Cross:

“... for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He worked continuously for about sixteen hours in the open under fire, and successfully evacuated a large number of wounded men. He set a splendid example of courage and determination2.”

Captain Willcocks received a letter from General Birdwood congratulating him -

 “... most heartily upon the award to you of the Military Cross for your conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the operations in the vicinity of Boursies from the 7th to 9th April. I know how courageously you worked in the open under heavy shell fire for sixteen hours without a break in the evacuation of the wounded and in assisting the Medical Officers at regimental aid posts3.”

 

On 13 July 1917 Captain G. C. Willcocks was transferred to Headquarters, Australian Army Medical Corps, Horseferry Road, as Aide to the DGMS4 Sir Neville Howse, VC.

For his service during this appointment he was awarded the Order of the British Empire5.  He was appointed to the rank of major on 24 August 1917.

Post war

In May 1919 under the non-military employment scheme, Dr Willcocks joined the staff of St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, London and was admitted to Membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1920.  In the same year he married Dr Hilda Winifred Richards in the District of St Martin, London.

On his return to Australia he entered consultant practice and was appointed honorary physician and lecturer in Medicine on the staff of the Sydney Hospital, from which he retired in 1948.  He was also a physician on the staff of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Prince Henry Hospital, Western Suburbs Hospital and Repatriation General Hospital.

Following his retirement in 1964 because of ill health, he suffered a protracted illness from which he died in Sydney on 18 July,  1972.

Drs George and Hilda Willcocks had four children.

With reference again to the earlier connection of the Willcocks family to Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Brisbane, it is of interest to note George Willcocks’ older sister, Ethel Mary Willcocks married David Hugh Tait whose son Flight Sergeant David Charles Tait died in action in New Guinea in World War 2. His memorial stained glass window in the nave of Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church is entitled ‘St Peter and St Andrew’.


Footnotes
1. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 4 October 1917
2. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 174, 11 October 1917
3. Extract from letter, General Sir William Birdwood to Captain G C Willcocks, 24 April 1917
4. Director General of Medical Services
5. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 61, 23 May 1919

Select Bibliography

• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Archives, Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane, church records
• Brisbane Grammar School Archive, including The Golden Book and 1904-1910 School Magazines - images where cited
• Ancestry, on line
The Telegraph, Brisbane, 10 October 1916, page 6
• Noad, Sir Kenneth, 'George Charles Willcocks', Munk’s  Roll, Volume 6, pages 460 and 461, Senior Year Book, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, 1923
• Ryerson Index, on line
• England & Wales Marriage Index, 1920
• London Electoral Register 1920 and 1921
• Hirst, E, College Roll, 'Willcocks, George Charles', Royal College of Physicians
• Australian War Memorial - Embarkation Rolls, Honours and Awards
• Sydney University Archives - images where cited
• John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland – images where cited

Story compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane.  July 2016.  

Supplementary images sourced by Miriam July 2017.

 

 

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