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Albert Martin Nicholson was an Australian soldier who was killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux, France during World War I. His remains were identified on 5 August 2021.

Background

Albert Nicholson was born on 1 June 1897 in Broken Hill, New South Wales to William Hirtl Nicholson and Agnes Amelia Dixon. He was their eighth of ten children. In 1911, William passed away and Agnes married widower, John Hepworth in December of 1915. Albert attended Burke Ward Public School and prior to enlisting, he worked as a driver for the Barrier Carrying Company.

Military service

On 17 September 1915, Nicholson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force of the Australian Army as a Gunner for the Field Artillery Reinforcements of the 6th Field Artillery Brigade. His service number was 10778.

On 5 January 1916, the 6th Field Artillery Brigade embarked at Melbourne, Victoria to Ismailia, Egypt aboard the HMAT Afric. The unit left Egypt on 17 March 1916 and disembarked at Marseilles, France on 23 March 1916. Nicholson was assigned as a Driver to the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column on 13 May 1916 at Le Petit Mortier, France.

Illness

On 24 May 1916, Nicholson became sick with a sore throat and was transferred to the 5th Field Ambulance on 4 June 1916 where he was diagnosed with Tonsilitis. He was subsequently sent to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital at Boulogne, France on 16 June 1916. He then travelled on the Hospital Ship Jan Breydel to England where he spent the next three months at the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital located in Harefield Park House in Middlesex, England.

On 7 November 1916, Nicholson returned to France and was posted to the 5th Divisional Ammunition Column which was marching towards Fricourt, France. Around a week later, he was hospitalized again with influenza and rejoined his unit at Fricourt on 6 December 1916. Throughout the harsh winter of 1916-17, the 5th Division Field Artillery and German artillery exchanged fire on roads, tracks, and communications.

Wounded

On 2 Feb 1917, Nicholson received a shrapnel wound to his back from enemy shellfire and was transferred to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Rouen, France and then to England on the hospital ship St. Patrick to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford, England. He rejoined his unit on 4 October 1917 in Belgium as it was participating to the Battle of Broodseinde.

Further battles

On 3 December 1917, he was transferred to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade (114th Battery). The brigade rested in the Estrées, France during January before moving to Merris, France. They remained in the front line until the end of March when it rested at Orville, France awaiting further instructions.

On 6 Apr 1918, the brigade established itself around Bonnay, France where it maintained continuous fire into the German lines threatening Amiens, France over the next few weeks. On 4 July 1918, the Australians began to push back against the Germans beginning with the Battle of Hamel. On 2 Aug 1918, the Brigade Headquarters withdrew to its Wagon Line at Blangy-Tronville, France.

During this withdraw, Nicholson was killed. He was on the middle pair of horses when a shell landed next to him and killed him. The other two riders who were with him survived. His death was reported by the Barrier Miner on 2 August 1919. According to his family, Nicholson's death was considered particularly tragic because he was supposed to get married that day.

Identification

Nicholson's remains were eventually located but not identified. He was buried at the Adelaide Cemetery in Villers-Bretonneux, France as an unknown soldier at Plot III.L.5. He was also memorialized at the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour at Treloar Crescent, Australia, at the Broken Hill War Memorial, and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

In March of 2013, a non-profit charity called Fallen Diggers Incorporated was formed to locate and identify the remains of missing World War I and World War II Australian soldiers. They utilize records and burial sites to aid in their cases. Due to their research, Albert Nicholson's remains were identified on 5 August 2021. He is the Fallen Digger's 36th identification. His headstone will be changed at a later date.

Sources

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