No.201811, Private, James NICHOLAS
Aged 33

1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment
formerly No.5090, 4th Bn., Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action presumed on Friday, 22nd March 1918

James NICHOLLS was born in 1885 in Eriswell (Mildenhall Q3-1885 3b:673), son of James and Elizabeth (Betsy) NICHOLAS (née HOOD). Subtle name changes made this man difficult to find.

1891 census..Aged [5] James Nichols was at 7 Little London, Eriswell with his father James NICHOLS [39] farm bailiff born Mildenhall; his mother Elizabeth [39] born Mildenhall; sisters Kate [14] born Mildenhall, Sarah Ann [11] born Eriswell; brothers Walter [7] and Robert [2] both born Eriswell.

1901 census...Aged 15, James NICHOLLS, farm labourer born Eriswell was at Workhouse Lane, Barton Mills with his father James NICHOLLS [[50] farm foreman born West Row; mother Betsey NICHOLLS [50] born West Row; brothers Walter [17] farm labourer born Eriswell and Robert [12] born Eriswell. Lewis NICHOLLS [2] born Barton Mills is recorded as grandson of Betsey but his parentage is not currently known.

1911 census...Aged 25, a horseman on farm, he was at Barton Mills with his widowed mother Elizabeth NICHOLAS [59] born West Row; his sister Kate [34] born West Row, brothers Robert [22] farm labourer, born Eriswell; Lewis [12] born Barton Mills and Mary Irene [6] born Barton Mills were both recorded as Elizabeth's grandchildren. Brother Walter was in the Suffolk Regiment in Egypt.

His elder brother Walter was killed between 21st and 25th March 1918. in the same enemy action, see here

He enlisted in Barton Mills.
The Kaiserschlacht, the German Spring offensive began on the 21st March, as the Germans began their last gasp attempt to win the war. A heavy bombardment commenced at 4 am on 21st and the 1st Cambridgeshires marched to LONGAVESNES and dug a defensive trench. The war diary gives:-
"22nd- Enemy shelling increased, being especially heavy on LONGAVESNES. Battalion occupied the trench which they have recently dug. During the morning there was a general retirement of our troops all along the line, and in the early afternoon the enemy appeared from the direction of ROISELL. After 2 pm we were able to open fire on the enemy who were assembling in the valley in front of our trench. The fire was returned and the enemy attempted to advance up the hill but was kept back by our Lewis guns. In the meantime the 16th Div. who had been holding the front line had fallen back through our line and the enemy was advancing behind us from EPEHY. At 5 pm about 30 to 40 hostile aeroplanes flew over our lines, locating our positions and firing machine guns at our men. At 7pm we received orders to retire to the GREEN LINE. The retirement was carried out under very heavy machine gun fire, even though the evacuation was carried out very quietly."

There is no mention of casualties, but CWGC records the 1st Cambridgeshire deaths that day as 23, 17 of which have no known grave.

James was found here before re-interrment at Harbonnieres

photo: Rodney Gibson

James Nicholas is buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, grave 1:J:9

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details