Sergeant Henry James Nicholas V.C., M.M

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.

Sergeant Henry Nicholas
Sergeant Henry Nicholas, File reference: CCL-2011-11-17-November2011 358-HenryNicholas

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.

The funeral of Sergeant Henry Nicholas, VC, in World War I, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013667-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23124751

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Anzac Day 2014

Friday 25 April 2014 is Anzac Day. Christchurch is currently celebrating Anzac Day with a Dawn Service in Cranmer Square (where a temporary cenotaph is erected) and a Citizens Service at the ChristChurch Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square. The details for each service are available on the Christchurch City Council website. For the locations and times of other commemorations around Christchurch details can be found on the RSA website.

Each year many wreaths and bouquets from the Dawn Service end up at the statue of Sgt Henry James Nicholas V.C. M.M., northwest of the Bridge of Remembrance on Cambridge Terrace.

Wreaths by statue of Sergeant Henry Nicholas

Sergeant Henry NicholasHenry Nicholas was the first soldier from the Canterbury Regiment to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He died in action on 23 October 1918 aged 26. He was awarded the Military Medal posthumously for his bravery during the fight for the bridgeheads at the River Ecaillon near the village of Beaudignies on 23 October 1918, 12 days before the New Zealanders’ capture of the town of Le Quesnoy.

All of our libraries are closed on Anzac Day.