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Roy Elgin NICOLLS


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Pte 935 20y1m 9/5/15 KA 5

Private Roy Elgin Nicholls (1894-1915)

Booklet

Family Background

Roy Elgin Nicholls was born in Bathurst, New South Wales in September 1894, the fourth son of Joseph and Bessie (née Logan). His parents were living at Auchenflower, Brisbane.

Enlistment

Roy worked as a draper when he enlisted on 2 October 1914. He was keen to enlist, having already served in Senior Cadets for one year and in the 7th Moreton Regiment for two years and 3 months. His parents had both signed a letter stating:

 “We hereby give our concent (sic) to our son Roy Elgin Nicholls to join the Queensland Expeditionary force 2nd Contingent.”

With service number 935, Private Nicholls was assigned to 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, based at Enoggera. The 15th Infantry Battalion embarked on 22 December 1914 from Melbourne on HMAT Ceramic, for Egypt.

Killed in Action

In Cairo further training took place and AIF leaders learnt of Churchill’s plan to attack The Dardanelles. Australians took their training seriously, with great enthusiasm and won a good reputation. Roy Nicholls took part in the invasion of Gallipoli in April 1915 and was killed in action days later.

Mrs Bessie Nicholls first heard of Roy’s death through a clergyman on 1 June. Having heard no more by 19 September, she wrote to the Secretary for Defence from her home in South Brisbane informing him of the clergyman’s visit on 1 June and continuing: 

 “Since that date I have made repeated enquiries at the Military Barracks of this City and have not yet received any information regarding his death. The date on which Roy was killed was mentioned as May 26th which is close on four months ago and I have not yet received his papers or personal effects and will feel very much obliged if you will forward me all particulars concerning this matter at your earliest convenience.”

Bessie eventually received a reply saying: 

“The exact date, place and circumstances pertaining to the death of Private R. Nicholls will not be known until the receipt of official orders from the Front.”

A parcel containing personal effects – cards, testament – was sent in December 1915. The time of death was eventually given officially as 9 or 10 May but exact circumstances were not recorded. Peter Stanley’s description of the attacks at Quinn’s Post where the 15th was engaged at this time shows how confused and dangerous the situation was:  

“The single most important feature at Quinn’s, the thing that explained its fearsome reputation, was that much of the post was within bombing range of the Turks and became the site of an almost continuous bomb-fight.”

Roy Nicholls was one of the many men of the 15th to lose his life. “Some of the men were unidentified – somebody’s sons,” said a chaplain in his diary. Roy Nicholls has no known grave.

The Lone Pine Memorial honouring Private Roy Elgin Nicholls gives little detail, save the vague date of death – 9 or 10 May 1915.

Churches of three denominations - all ‘Uniting’ now - claimed Roy Nicholls. At Albert Street Methodist Church on 2 March 1919, the Queensland Methodist Conference held a memorial service for soldiers who fought and perished in World War 1 (1914 - 1918). The order of service includes a list of names of “the men of Methodism who enlisted in Queensland and who have made the Supreme Sacrifice.” The name of Roy Elgin Nicholls is on this list. Roy’s name is also on the Wharf Street Congregational Church honour board at Saint Andrew’s. Roy himself wrote “Presbyterian” for his Religious Denomination on his enlistment form.

The honour board wall in the Merrington Anzac Memorial Peace Chapel honours Private Roy Nicholls as did his Sydney friends Herbert, Jennie, Rubie and Eric a century ago, in loving memory of Roy “who gave his life for his country.” 


Select Bibliography

  • National Archives of Australia, military records
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Australian War Memorial, Canberra
  • Peter Stanley, Quinn’s Post Anzac, Gallipoli, Allen & Unwin, 2005
  • Patrick Lindsay, The Spirit of Gallipoli, Hardie Grant Books, 2006
  • Brisbane Courier, 12 June 1915
  • Wharf Street Congregational Church, Brisbane, Year Books 1909 – 1920
  • Michael McKernan, Gallipoli A Short History, Allen & Unwin, 2010
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Nov 1944, 1 Sept 1947

Compiled by N E Adsett, November 2014

 

 

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