He was a carpenter, a sportsman – a boxer – went to Christchurch Normal School (local boy), his photos show a nice face, and he wasn’t married. Just an ordinary kiwi bloke, maybe. But he did extraordinary things.
Henry Nicholas enlisted in February 1916 with the 1st Canterbury Battalion, and landed in France in September 1916. With his Regiment was involved in fighting at The Somme, Messines and Polderhoek, (Belgium).
It was from the action at Polderhoek on 3 December 1917 that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty… exceptional valour and coolness”. He destroyed an enemy strongpoint that was inflicting heavy casualties and overpowered a sixteen-man enemy garrison, capturing four wounded prisoners and an enemy machine-gun.
While on leave in England in mid-1918 he was invested by the King, the first solder in his regiment to be awarded the V.C., and he returned to France in September 1918, promoted to sergeant.
The Regiment had the duty of holding the town of Beaudignies, near Le Quesnoy. A skirmish on 23rd October with a German patrol cost Nicholas his life, and earned him the Military Medal.
Armistice was just a few short weeks away.
For more information:
- Our page about the life Sgt Henry James Nicholas VC
- Quid non pro patria : the short, distinguished military life of Henry James Nicholas VC MM / by John H. Gray
- New Zealand Army – Canterbury Regiment
- Information about Henry Nicholas at He toa taumata rau / Cenotaph
- The Funeral of Henry Nicholas – NZ History
- Listen to the audio story of Henry Nicholas at Ngā Tapuwae: First World War Trails
- An account of his funeral in The Press and an Obituary