Monday, July 27, 2009

Following on from the statue

Sgt Henry James NICHOLAS VC MM - in an earlier post I introduced you briefly to Sgt Nicholas whose statue my daughter and took an interest in. The statue is in the inner city where we live.

Owen very kindly took off on a research of his own and found the final resting place of Sgt Nicholas in France.

The young Sgt was the sole "winner" of the Victoria Cross from the World War 1. As it turns out, as a young child he lived not too far away from where I live now with my family. Henry (Harry to his friends) had an older brother who was also in WW1, he was wounded in Gallipoli and returned to NZ for discharge. Another brother, Ernest went to war as a 20 year old and saw service in Egypt and France. Henry also had 4 sisters and an adopted brother.

It also transpires (I love that word, don't you!) that Sgt Nicholas was killed in action as a result of a German patrol returning from a "reccie" and basically blundered into Sgt Nicholas' post. In a brief exchange of fire most of the German's were killed and the sole New Zealand casualty was Sgt Nicholas. He died approximately 200 yards east of the northern bridge, Beaudignies.

Sgt Nicholas was originally buried in the French Cemetary on Route de Capelle at Beaudignies on 25 October 1918. Four days later, 29 October 1918, his body was exhumed and he was reburied with full military honours in the Vertigneul Chruchyard near Romeries (Nord).

He has nieces still living here in Christchurch and they were able to assist with the booklet written about him.


The villager: said...

It's fascinating to re-examine this WW1 history, Sag. We should be learning some lessons about the folly of today's campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are very different to 1914-18, but still people dying needlessly - in my opinion.

The Sagittarian said...

Hi Villager - yes, history has taught us that we have learned nothing from history - so the saying goes. I have found this fact finding mission very interesting indeed.

Steve said...

The UK's 2 oldest living WW1 vets died within days of each other last week. A concern was voiced that WW1 and it's cost would inevitably be forgotten with their passing. With posts like this I think not. Thank you.

The Sagittarian said...

Steve - I certainly know heaps more about this now; apparently the statue came about in a roundabout way - one of his nieces was at an air show and wanted a ride in one of the planes and was told "You have to be someone special or know someone special" to get a ride. She reportedly muttered that her uncle was awarded the Victoria Cross in WW1 "would that be special enough" - got her ride and the news got out in Canterbury and voila! Statue. Lovely eh?

Owen said...

Dear Saj, I see you've been busy... this is all most fascinating. I must admit that thanks to your story I've been doing a little reading about the Victoria Cross, which is a subject I knew almost nothing about. I had no idea to what extent a rare and prestigious decoration it is.

Thanks for this follow-up piece. Were you able to learn whether any of his relatives have been to France or Belgium ? It seems that in Belgium a memorial plaque was put up near the place where the incident took place for which he was awarded the VC. May have to go take a look for it one of these days. But not immediately, as we are heading 600 kms very soon in the opposite direction, on vacation in Britanny. (a lucky sod I am, I am a lucky sod)

But in view of your post here, it would be timely to post a few more pictures taken the other day while tracking down Sgt Nicholas... am off to do so...

After all the champagne being imbibed out of buckets yesterday with Lynne, I hope your head was not hurting too badly !

The Sagittarian said...

Hi Owen, and thanks for your part in all this too. There was a delegation from France that came out when teh statue was unveiled, it was a very big affair by all accounts. I haven't finished the book on him yet so not too sure if family have visited or not. I'll let you know. My dad met Sir Charles Upham once, he was a famous Kiwi who got a double VC. Enjoy your holiday!
My head is fine thanks, must be all the training I get! :-)

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Saj,
This has been an amazing story! And not quite over yet as Owen has some more tracking to do in Belgium. His remaining family in NZ must be so grateful to you for hororing his memory like this. Sad that every day another 1,000 WW II veterans die. It's up to us to keep the memories of those who fought alive.

Laurie said...

Fascinating stuff, Saj and I looked up your earlier post with the photographs of the statue and plaque. You might be interested in some photos I found recently that I have posted a couple of days ago [Reality of War 1] about the treatment of wounded in the First World War. The final photograph shows a post war [1920] exhumation of a grave on the Western Front.
Best wishes

The Sagittarian said...

Margaret - it seems to have been an horrific event all round doesn't it, and yet we still get into wars!

Laurie - I'll pop over to yours and have a look! This story has fascinated my daughter, she used to cringe at cemetaries and now commonly asks if we can taking photos again there.