Private John Reginald NICHOLS


Regiment/Service:
Gordon Highlanders
Secondary Regiment:
London Regiment (London Scottish)
Unit:
1st/14th Battalion
Service Number:
S/41828
(Formerly: Private 79286 - see below)
Date of Death:
29 August 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
19
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 10


Personal History:
John was born on the 22nd March 1899, the son of William James (Grocer) and Phoebe (née Bloor) Nichols. He had five older brothers and sisters, William, Lucy Wallace, Lillian Mary, James and Sydney Bloor. In 1901 the family were living at 42 West Road, Buxton (Census RG 13/3270)
Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21236) they had moved to The Mount, Devonshire Road, Buxton, and after the War were at 41 Heath Park Road, Buxton. When he enlisted in 1917, aged 17 years 11 months, John gave his occupation as "Salesman [Warehouse]". At that time he was 5 ft. 5¼ ins. (1.66 m.) tall and living with his parents at 'The Mount', Devonshire Road, Buxton. By 1919 his father had moved again to 3 Sylvan Park, Buxton.

Military History:
John enlisted into the 2nd (T.R.) Battalion, at Buxton on the 27th February 1917 and was posted to the Rugeley Camp on the 12th April. (His Service papers were endorsed: "Under age".) He was transferred to the "258th Infantry Battalion", on the 30th August 1917, which had no regimental affiliation. On the 1st October this Battalion became the 51st (TR) Graduated Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

He was posted to France, sailing from Folkestone on the 26th March 1918, and arriving at Boulogne the following day, then on to a base depot at Étaples. John was transferred to the Gordon Highlanders on the 28th March 1918 and renumbered 41828.

On the 1st July 1918 John was Court Martialled after it had been reported that: "... on the 10th May 1918, whilst on duty as a Sentry in a Lewis Gun Post was found leaning against the side of the trench dozing." He pleaded "Not guilty", but was found guilty and received '42 days Field Punishment No. 1'. (John was only 19 years 2 months old at the time of the offence.) On the 19th July, however, his Service Record states that the Court Martial was ".. quashed by order of G.O.C. 56th Division".

[N.B. Field Punishment Number One involved the offender being attached to a fixed object for up to two hours a day and for a period up to three months. During the First World War, these men were sometimes put in a place within range of enemy shell-fire.]

John was reported "wounded and missing" on the 29th August 1918. At the time of his death he was serving with the 1/14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish), part of the 168th Brigade in 56th (London) Division. Following The Battle of Albert (23rd August 1918), a phase of the Second Battles of the Somme, the Division was engaged in The Battle of the Scarpe (26th - 30th August), a phase of the Second Battles of Arras.

The 1st Battalion London Scottish was involved in the attack on Bullecourt on 28th and 29th August 1918. The Regimental History says this about the attack:

"The Scottish reached the North side of the village which they gradually cleared at the point of the bayonet and by 2.30 p.m. the survivors of the lead companies had reached Gordon Reserve Trench to the East. The initiative thus gained was quickly lost when it was discovered that the London Rifle Brigade assaulting to the North and the Kensingtons to the South had both been held up by machine gun fire. Colonel Jackson committed A Company to the village to complete the mopping up and thereafter was compelled to send C Company to the left flank where it was heavily engaged by German machine guns still holding out in the trenches to the North East and East of the village. By 4.45 p.m. the Scottish losses had proved so heavy that a decision was made to withdraw the leading survivors to a position within 150 yards of Gordon Reserve."

According to the War Diary, on that day the 1/14th County of London Battalion lost 22 Other Ranks killed, 4 officers and 78 O.R.s wounded; 2 gassed; and 1 Officer and three men missing. However, CWGC records show that 33 Officers and men of the 1/14th Battalion were killed on the 29th August 1914, though John is not among them, being listed among the 31 dead of the Gordon Highlanders killed on the same day.

Sources:
· I am grateful to 'Squirrel', of the Great War Forum, for the extract from the History
· 'The London Scottish in the Great War' by Mark Lloyd [ISBN-10: 0850527139]

Link to CWGC Record
The Vis-en-Artois Memorial
John's name on the Memorial
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