NICHOLS, John William

No.S/29543, Rifleman, John William NICHOLS
Aged 20

9th Battalion, Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own)
formerly 35084 Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Thursday 3rd May 1917

John Nichols was born in Wicklewood, Norfolk on 17th December 1897 (Forehoe Q4-1897 4B:192), baptised in St Andrews and All Saints, Wicklewood on 23rd April 1897, son of John and Sarah Jane NICHOLS (née RATLEY).

1901 census...Aged 3, he was in Carleton Forehoe with his father John NICHOLS [34] a gamekeeper, born in Wicklewood, Norfolk; his mother Sarah [33] born in Stratford St Mary; brothers Bertie Philip [4] born Wicklewood and George [2] born in Carleton Forehoe and sister Florence [6 months], born in Carleton Forehoe.

1911 census...Aged 13, he was in Pokemere Lane, Woodditton with his parents, brothers Bertie and George, sister Florence and new siblings, Margaret [9] born Carleton Forehoe, Hilda [6] and Lilian [4] both born in Redgrave, Victor [8] born in Redgrave and Leonard [3] and Edwin [2] both born in Old Newton.

His brother Bertie Philip NICHOLS was killed on 19th May 1917 and, like John, is named on the Arras Memorial. see here

He enlisted in Newmarket.
The 9th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade arrived in France in May 1915, but John did not join them until after 31st December 1915 by his medal index card.
On the 3rd May 1917 the 14th Division attacked Cherisy. The 9th Rifles were on the left of 42nd Brigade. Their first objective was a line running NE along the road from St Michael's Statue for 1500 yards to within 200 yards of Triangle Wood and then northward. As the 9th were closest to the enemy they were not to jump off until 18 minutes after the rest. The 1st wave went over the top at 4:03 am and promptly lost all touch with the rest of the battalion 8 runners were casualties. All their officers appear to have become casualties early on from machine gun fire as they had gone too far to the right with uncut wire and a new manned German trench. The second wave fared no better, also encountering machine gun fire from positions missed by the first wave. Held up after 500 yards they dug in in some shell holes, but the German bombs out ranged their rifle grenades. Machine gun fire from both flanks pinned them down. Two platoons reported they could not advance and could they withdraw at dusk, they were 1,000 yards short of their objective and were also in our own barrage range. That night such companies as could be reached were withdrawn. One company sent a message the next day that they, (an officer and 12 men), had taken and held a strong point since 5:15 on the 3rd and needed ammunition and water.
This terrible day ended with 8 officers wounded, 5 more wounded and missing and 257 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

CWGC records show the 9th Battalion had 96 killed and only two of these have an identified grave

photo: Rodney Gibson

John Nichols is commemorated on the Arras Memorial - bay 9

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