The Last Days of a WW1 Soldier

The Last Days of a World War 1 Soldier

Today; the 14th July 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the death of my Great Grandfather Lance Corporal Charles Robert Nicholson. I am marking the day with this post, and  documenting his story is my way of remembering him for my Gran, his daughter Lizzie.

Sadly this is the last page of entries in Charles’ diary. His entries became less frequent towards this point, maybe the war was too intense , or maybe he knew he had little space to write, he was using the back of the older diary to write his notes.

C R Nicolson ww1 diary 012

1st July –1917
1st July Germans came over & all killed. 1 officer taken prisoner
2nd July 2 German aeroplanes brought down one in our camp. Officer killed Lt Hoffman. 1 officer killed aeroplane collided & down at Heudicourt. Buried by Capt Appleton 19th chaplain Gateshead.
3rd July Left camp 3 Heudicourt for making light railway at St Emilie.
6th July Left St Emilie

The last written entry was on 6th of July, on 13th Charles was wounded and he sadly passed away on the 14th July.

From the Historical Records N. Fusiliers

3.7.17 W X & Y engaged on preparing railway track destroyed by enemy, deviations made round large craters. Heavy hostile fire, several casualties.
7.7.17 W X & Y moved to new bivouac sites near Ephy at 9pm. Weather fine until 2.30am then a thunderstorm broke and troops were soaked before bivouacs complete.

8.7.17 W on CT from Bird Post to Bird Lane
9.717 – 18.7.17 W on Bird Cage
12.7.17 W Company- Enemy opened concentrated bombardment along Bird Walk and Bird Cage. W moved up to reinforce the garrison holding the post. Enemy attempted a determined raid but withdrew under fire. The bombardment was renewed and lasted until 1.15am. No. 2 platoon remained with the garrison until it was reorganised and assured the attack would not resume. The following casualties occurred in the Pioneers.
Killed 6 O.R.
Wounded 23 O.R.
Wounded at duty 11 O.R.
6 O. R. died later in hospital.
W were later complimented on parade for their work.
Bird Cage Trench
birdgage trenches

This is the letter that no wife would ever want to receive, how cold and matter of fact.

I noticed when folded a corner of the letter is full of stab holes, and I imagined the widowed Lily sitting at her sewing table when the letter arrived, staring into the distance and unconciously stabbing away at the letter whilst trying to make sence of it all.

C R Nicholson 8 001

This is the notification of where Charles was buried.

C R Nicholson 7 001His leather dog tag, which must have been with him when he died.

C R Nicholson 4 001aI suppose these cards were a way of marking a soldier’s death, maybe they were sent by the  family, or it may have come from the War Office.

C R Nicholson 5 001a

C R Nicholson 4 001 vHe was buried at Tincourt , this is how it looks today. From a cemetary plan I was able to find his grave on Google Earth. Oh how I wish my Gran could have seen his grave on the internet. Sadly she never got to vist it.

tincourt grave

This was the temporary monument that marked the grave, I don’t know if this photo was sent to the widow from the War Office, or whether his father took it when he visted the cemetary.

C R Nicholson 001a

The ‘Death Penny’, the memorial plaque given to the next of kin of all those who died in World War 1.


I have one thing left to do to bring this story to a close.I must visit the grave for my Gran  who never got to to see her father’s grave.

I visited Middlham, his place of birth ( and where the War Memorial bears his name) to gather some earth to take with me to scatter on his grave so a small piece of France is for ever Yorkshire.


I should also add, whilst documenting these events, and their devastating effect on my family I have also thought they were not alone, there were thousands who lost someone just like them. I wondered was there a German lady somewhere doing exactly what I have been doing these past few weeks, if so I’m sending you a huge hug.