World War 1 Diary – The Days Before France

The World War 1 Diary of Lance Corporal Charles Robert Nicholson

It’s almost 100 years since my Great Grandfather gave his life for King and Country. I always spent Remembrance Sunday with my Gran, his daughter, we watched the service at the Cenotaph and we had a ‘posh’ lunch.

Although she was only 7 when he died she kept his memory alive and I feel it is my duty to do the same, for both of them. So over the next few weeks I shall be sharing pages from his diary, factual records from the Historical Record of his Battalion, photos from the Great War, postcards he sent home etc.

Here he is with his wife and daughter Lizzie, who was my Gran, you can read an earlier post here
charles r nicholsonI have followed his journey from enlisting in Jesmond to his death on 14th July 1917, and with the aid of a scanner I have been able to read parts of his diaries that were illegible before. There’s a typical page from his diary here

Let’s start at the beginning:

C R Nicolson photo1Lce. Cpl. Charles Robert Nicholson.

No. 2, A Company, 19th Service Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers.
Enlisted at Newcastle on Tyne on 16th November 1914.
Age 34 years 7 months.
For the declaration of the war.
Born in the parish of Middleham, County of Yorkshire.
Trade- miner.
Last permanent address:  Ivy Terr
Height: 5’ 71/2”
Religion: NC
Wife : Lily Nicholson
Child : Elizabeth Nicholson





He kept diaries throughout his training and during the war, they aren’t extensive but I am able to pad out the facts he has given using a copy of his Battalion’s Historical Records.

C R Nicolson ww1 diaries

Historical Records 19th Battalion Ntld Fus

The Days Before France

Transcript taken from Historical Records of the 19Th (Service) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers

Chapter 1.

“On 17th November 1914, sanction was received from the War Office to from 19th ( Service) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, and recruiting was completed within a few days  on 24th November headquarters were set up at 20 Osborne Ave, Jesmond. The issue of uniforms began, the long company parades in Osborne Ave and Holly Ave were a sight never to be forgotten, and much humour was associated with civilian clothes and the odd splash of khaki. Throughout the whole existence of the Battalion verbal parodies of orders could be heard in billets, camps and bivouacs or on the march. Much pungent satire sparkled in a brief effort to relieve the monotony. This was a time of enthusiasm and ambition, parades were held and a band was formed.

The whole Battalion was entertained that Christmas by a variety show at the Hippodrome. Several choruses learnt that day relieved the tedium of many route marches around Benton Gosforth and the North Road.

The 12th January 1915 was a memorable day. Most men lived at home and travelled daily to Newcastle for training. This was their last day in Newcastle as thet moved to Morpeth on the 13th. The route march had finished and the men waited for the reading of Battalion orders for details of the move. They had expected to be dismissed early for their last night at home for a while, but a hitch had occurred. Discipline held the men and they stood fast. Within 2 minutes of the end of orders being read Osborne Ave was deserted.

The Battalion marched to Central Station via Jesmond Rd and Northumberland St, the men were all in good spirits. The Battalion entered billets A company occupied council schools, B St Georges church and Catholic church. C the Drill Hall, and D the grammar school, and lodging house.

Morpeth and Cottingwood commons were used for drill purposes. The as yet rifle-less companies were given musket training.

From 8th February the Battalion was converted into a Pioneer unit with the title 22nd Tyneside Pioneers” Orders to work on the land north of Morpeth were frequently given. The miners came into their own in digging and general pioneer work. There was keen competition amongst sections and a healthy rivalry persisted. Night operations were frequent despite chilly nights.

On 28th April, a hot day, all companies marched to Seaton Sluice to take over rifles from the 5th Battalion N. F. 600 rifles were selected and the troops were very proud of their weapons as they marched back to Morpeth. But the weapons soon became very heavy.

Sports played an important role, and inter platoon matches were frequent. At Easter Battalion sports were held. Relatives journeyed for to see the program of events.

During their stay in Morpeth all ranks were made welcomed by the locals, who later sent parcels to France as a tribute of good feeling that existed.

On 14th May the 19th N. F. moved to Cramlington. Parades were strenuous training. Concerts were held in camp to relieve training.

On 16th June the Battalion entrained at Cramlington enroute for Masham, Yorkshire. Training continued including building a bridge over a stream near the camp which was prone to flooding. The operations by day and night continued, although constructive there seemed a lack of energy in the troops, probably due to the humidity of the valley, especially after the bracing air of Cramlington, or this could have been due to the vaccinations.

The company lettering was changed from ABCD to WXYZ respectfully.

In August training moved to No 1 camp Perham Down near Tidworth. The barracks at Perham Down were very comfortable and passes were freely issued and a social life developed. Much pioneer work was done entrenching, constructing roads etc. Training for maneuvers continued. Orders arrived to prepare for Egypt, but soon afterwards this was changed to France. Many men were on leave at Christmas but a concert and special dinner were provided for those who were left. Succeeding weeks were spent on intensive training with trench warfare the chief object.

On 28th January the journey to France began.”

Here’s a page from his diary during training, it’s about how to write orders.
C R Nicolson ww1 diary 010
 11th – 17th October 1915
Writing of orders all names to be printed in blocked capitals & where they book for etc also region town etc.
BEAUVOIS 200yds north E
Block letters BEAUVOIS

Out Posts
No. 1 Every body of troops when halted will be protected by outposts
No. 2 First duty reconnaissance 2nd Resistance
3rd Out Post infantry divided into piquets & supports. The piquets furnish sentry groups. Supports reinforce the piquets.
Lewis guns to sweep approach.
4th Least number of men possible used on out posts.
5th To see without being seen.

May 12/17
Capt. Cook
1st standing orders
2nd routine orders
3rd Operation orders
Standing orders are mapped out & liable to be slightly altered.
Routine orders noted for discipline, paying our ration, alterations
Operation orders. Mapping orders for divisions to move to if wanted, given by the army Co. Dates later issued & other divisions acquainted to the move, all copies of operation orders must be numbered and signed for, on immediate arrival as acknowledgement.

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Feeling the force

I feel I made a breakthrough this week throwing pots.

With great advice from Tim See I have practiced and I managed to make some pots close to the size and shape that I want to decorate.
I’ve gone from nut bowls to small vases which I feel is a bit of a breakthrough.
I even managed a slightly wonky batter bowl.
P1410743I have given much thought as to how I want to decorate my new pots, do I want to continue with decorating using overglazes and lustres following my ‘Brand’, or do I venture into new territory and use underglaze techniques?

I decided for now at least, as I’m intent on learning new stuff to try underglaze decoration so I’ve ordered some, I can always use overglazes later if I want.

Some pots are very simple in form but as I really like some of the qualities of hand built pots I decided to distort some. I just want to pick these pots up when I look at them.

P1410739My copy of Claycraft magazine arrived so I had a go at making a matching pair of mugs, this is really tricky, I kept altering each one in turn but they still aren’t a great match. Alas my pulled handles dried out too much so I just rolled these out, they are too chunky and a bit ugly but I will do better next time.
P1410742I’ve saved my best pieces ’til last. Having watched Tim’s centering video over and over, I finally got it, then he watched me throw and gave me advice how to do better ( Thanks Tim) this cylinder and bowl are the result, they didn’t need much trimming and are my best pieces so far. 15cm tall cylinder vase, 15cm wide bowl.
P1410741One thing that crossed my mind when learning centering the clay; I’ve never tried another art or craft where touch is one of the most relied on of senses. I love the tactile quality of the clay and found myself at times using my sense of touch and ‘seeing’ with my ‘inner eye’ rather than actually looking. Made me think of Star Wars….. “Luke feel the force” 🙂

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Little and Great Sca Fells, Knott and Great Calver walk

The Caldbeck Fells are a great place to walk if you want to get away from the more popular fells. Most of the paths are good but it can be boggy in wet weather. Fortunately for us there has been a dry spell of late.

We started out from Longlands following the path up Charleton Gill. This is a good path and easy walking.


Looking towards Skiddaw


Looking towards Blencathra

The walking may be gentle but you are surrounded by some impressive fells namely Skiddaw and Blencathra.

The summit of Little Sca Fell has a stone shelter, it’s a good place to have lunch. Then we headed up to Great Sca Fell, the summit doesn’t have the luxury of a shelter.

We intended taking about 3 hours and only going up Great Sca Fell but as the weather was so good we headed up Knott, then Great Calver making the whole walk about 10.5 miles and taking 6 hours so I’m feeling it today.


The peak on the left is Great Calver

I took a little video on the summit of Knott hoping to capture the sound of the skylarks, but alas wind noise has drowned them out, even though it was more of a breeze really.

00001This is the cairn on the summit of Great Calver, a bit of a work of art maybe.P1410526

Looking back towards the Solway Firth and Scotland in the distance. P1410528Looking down St John’s In The Vale

Thirlmere just peeping out amongst the fells in the distance.P1410535

Helvellyn on the left.P1410545


We retraced our steps back a little way then started our decent down Hause Gill.


Hause Gill was quite enchanting, although the scree path was a bit loose in places.
20170510_142025_resized (2)We had a bit of a detour through a bog to avoid cattle then we rejoined the path, we got our first view of Dash Falls. This is one of my favourite low level walks but I’ve not seen the views of the valley from this side before.

P1410566Looking towards Bassenthwaite.
P1410576Soon the road was in sight, then just a couple of miles along it and back to the car.

Another great day out on the lesser known fells Back O’ Skiddaw.

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So what have I been up to in April?

Between getting gallery stock made, updating Etsy and some changes around the house I haven’t had a great deal of time for making much.

You know how one change leads to another, then you have a whole chain of things that seem to swallow up all your time. Well that’s how it’s been recently. I did manage to have a lovely few days away too.

I have been out in the studio today, the sun is shining and it feels like summer is finally on it’s way. I have blackbirds nesting in my bay tree and the swallows are checking out under the porch so there may be some building work going on there soon.

I noticed the apple blossom today, it looks just perfect, but it won’t last long.

I have reorganised the studio too, I got a little table from IKEA to put my wheel on, and some drawers on wheels to act as my glazing station. I’m showing you how it looks when it’s tidy, it doesn’t look so tidy now, clay is so messy to work with.
P1410451These bisque pieces are waiting to be glazed and fired.
P1410450These are pieces  I threw yesterday, I can see an improvement.

I’m totally hooked on working with clay, I should have done this years ago. I have decided to give up on some crafts that I used to do but have now taken a back seat, I will be selling off some stuff to make space for my ceramic work. I need to get going and have a good declutter soon.

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New copper lustre ceramic jewellery components

ceramic jewellery components

ceramic jewellery components

I was woken up early today by the dawn chorus so I have found time to list some of my ceramic components that have been waiting patiently to be added to my shop.
I love seeing them all together like this, shining like a treasure trove.

kiln fired art components

ceramic pendants and charms with copper lustre

I’ve even had time to make a promotional banner with Picmonkey to put on my facebook page.
So that’s everything listed so I better go and make some more 🙂

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Grasmoor via Gasgale Gill, Whiteless Edge, Whiteless Pike and Rannerdale

It’s been a while since we’ve climbed Grasmoor, my favourite route up is via Gasgale Gill but yesterday it was like seeing it all for the first time as the landscape has changed so much since the floods.

In many places the path has been washed away.P1410281

We had to cross the gill a few times, there was no other way so I’m pleased it’s been very dry recently. Not something to do when it’s in full spate.

There was a lot more rocky scrambling, and some walking on scree so care was needed. The path does improve further up the Gill, but near the top it’s a bit loose under foot.P1410301

This used to be quite grassy, now it’s covered in scree that was washed down the mountain, there’s a land slip on the right.

Once you reach Coledale Hause the paths are much better, and wider.

Unfortunately the cloud came down so there were no views from the summit, these pictures were taken on the way up.P1410318

We intended coming down Lad Hows but as there was no wind we decided to try Whiteless Edge, which I have tried before but had to turn back as the wind was so strong I couldn’t stand upright.

Grasmoor from the ridge, still cloaked in cloud.P1410340

I’m not a ridge walker, I get vertigo, but this path is much wider when you are on it than it looks from a distance so I was ok.P1410342

Crummock Water.P1410345

Crummock, and Loweswater in the cloud.P1410347

You can just see 3 lakes from this point, Buttermere is on the left.P1410349

This is the Lad Hows route, next time we are going to go up this route.P1410362

Mountains as far as the eye can see, it’s a wonderful feeling when you are up there.P1410384

We almost had the place to ourselves until the air force showed up.P1410402

There is a bit of rocky scrambling on Whiteless Pike but then the path is more gentle leading down into Rannerdale.  This view of Grasmoor is quite impressive but you still can’t see the summit.P1410424We were a little early for the bluebells but the gorse bushes filled the air with a scent which reminds me of suntan lotion.

This is Whiteless Pike from Rannerdale.P1410438

We had some company as we walked along the road back to the car.P1410444I’m feeling a bit stiff and achy today so I’m going to have an easy day, I may glaze some pots.

Enjoy your weekend.

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My potting progress – throwing different clays

I took some of my pots out of the kiln this morning, I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about opening the kiln. Now I’m thinking one of these days the results may surpass the excitement of wondering, then I’ll know I’m getting the hang of this pottery stuff. But having said that I’m quite happy with the results considering I have had my wheel less than 2 months.

I haven’t done any throwing this week but I did have pots waiting to be fired. So far I have tried throwing 3 different clays. The first one is a Scarva ball clay which is said to be good for beginners, and it can be fired to earthenware and stoneware temperatures.

Then wanting to have a go with something different I opened a bag of heavily grogged clay, which I found out to be a tile clay. Although this clay is coarse and a little exfoliating on the hands I found I could get a pot that kept it’s shape well, I liked it.

Then I tried porcelain flax clay, which is mainly for hand building and is very, very sticky and not the best clay for throwing.

So I have some finished pots today, they are all a bit ‘wabi sabi’ but I like that, perfection is for machines 🙂 I’ll talk you through which clay is which in my photos.

Last time I met up with friends I said I’d make tapas when they next visit, so I thought it would be fun to make tapas bowls.
P1400819All of these pots except the one in the front are made from tile clay, I love the rustic look but they are really quite coarse on the base, but I have a plan, I will cold work them on my grinder.

P1400821This is my breakfast set, remember I made OH one for his birthday. It’s made from the Scarva buff ball clay but fired to vitrification. The large bowl has a few pinholes so I might fire it again. I used a mixture of a couple of celadon glazes and glazed them on the wheel.

P1400822These two pots are some of my first, they are made from Scarva ball clay. They really quite heave as they have thick bases but I love that weightiness in the hand. They feel very stable so I’m going to use these for water and some Japanese ink that my daughter gave me. This beautiful treasure of a sketchbook is made by Heather of Hilltop Bindery I love it. So now I need to make a brush rest and a brush tray to complete the set.

P1400826I’m showing this little porcelain pot from it’s best side, I think it was too soft when I trimmed it so it leans a bit. I do love these glazes, I can’t decide if I should do some more work with overglazes and platinum.


Another Scarva ball clay pot, it’s one of my thinnest pots so far, it feels like it should be a sake cup, but maybe it could be a large egg cup for a duck or goose egg, seeing it’s Easter 🙂


I have some pots in the kiln now bisque firing. I love the journey of learning new things.

Happy Easter, whatever you are doing

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Roughton Gill Walk

We had a nice sunny couple of days so we went to explore new ground. From a geological point of view Roughton Gill is a very interesting place, it’s apparently a mecca for mineral collectors, but alas all I found was a few quartz crystals. There has been mining here since Elizabethan times, and a vast array of minerals have been found here. You can see a full list of minerals found here. Apparently there are some stunning specimens from this area in the National History museum.

It was a beautiful walk on great paths.


This is not on the tourist trail so we had the place to ourselves most of the way, no yuppies in brand new gear. I do so cherish some isolation from time to time.

The sheep seemed to take an interest in us .

And the puddles had signs of life too.

Someone had kindly made some seats so we could have our picnic in comfort.


The waterfall at the head of the valley was rather special don’t you think?


This will be a walk we will do again in the not so distant future, but now I’m off to do some design work inspired by the rock, lichen and river photos I took along the way. I will show you in another post soon.

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Throwing progress and March in review

This month has flown over, I’m really loving learning to throw pots, I think I should have got a wheel a long time ago.

Today was a special day as my very first thrown pots were glaze fired yesterday, it seemed to take ages before the kiln was cool enough to open.

This is OH’s birthday present, I promised him a cereal bowl.

P1400616I made him a beaker as well, it’s a beaker because my attempt a pulling a handle was absolute rubbish.


I’m going to use this one for mixing salad dressing


This one with the lip was my very first wheel thrown piece, these are rather chunky so I gave them a grey granite glaze which works rather well. I will be using this one for things like mint sauce.

P1400619I think this is my favourite so far.P1400622This is the largest one from my first batch, it’s a bit wonky but the glaze enhances it don’t you think?

P1400625These are recent makes still drying out, I have managed to go a lot thinner.

P1400615Yesterday I decided to try out some different clay that was lying around , it’s heavily grogged and probably too rough to use for food, the plan was to make some tapas dishes, I might have to order some new clay but these will get used in the studio for storing stuff.

P1400612And this is a porcelain bowl that I threw this morning , just to see what it felt like to throw. It will need quite a bit of trimming, I didn’t want to fiddle with it in case it collapsed.


I am really enjoying throwing, I prefer doing it standing up, I think I need to try and throw something taller , that might be easier sitting at the wheel, but that’s the beauty of having a tabletop wheel. Also I need to re think the studio layout and probably move my painting stuff indoors as there’s too much dust out there now.

So what else have I made this month? Not much as I’ve had family here, but my duck that I made when my friend came over has made it into the garden.

P1400611And I’ve painted some tiles which I’m off to frame up right now.P1400629My plan for April is to continue practicing throwing, but also work on some surface decoration techniques bringing some of what I do already into my new work.

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A Week of R & R

I took time out last week with my family, and what a wonderful week we had, the sun shone every day and some days were hot enough to sit in the garden amongst the daffodils and gaze upon blue skies and snow capped fells.

We did the tourist thing including some of my favourite leisurely walks, the views were spectacular.

This is Skiddaw

Castlerigg Stone Circle


We got to see 6 buzzards soaring above the distillery.

And even the Isle of Man looked closer than usual

This is one of my favourite spots above Loweswater

It was a bit misty when we went to Buttermere  but it was a perfect day for pictures to inspire watercolours as the aerial perspective created by the hazy conditions flattened the landscape.

I love these tree branches against the sky, I may use them in some of my digital textile work.

P1400567The larches were starting to green up, I’m not sure if they are leaves or needles, I will have to google that one.
P1400577I’ve walked this path many times but I had never noticed the heart shaped cleft in the fellside before.

Beautiful birch bark

P1400598And while I was taking some inspirational photos my family meandered on

P1400564A little bit of cloud started building at the end of our walk on our last day together but we managed to sit outside for a pub lunch before heading home.
P1400602Now it’s back to reality, my family have gone, we have rain, wind, and work to do, but it was the most perfect week.

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